WASHINGTON, D.C. — There are COVID survivors, and then there are COVID survivors whose bodies can't seem to kick its symptoms out.
“In those cases, you know, we definitely you know, can help see them and try to do additional treatments in our diagnostic testing," said Dr. Harvey Hsu, with Banner University Medical Center in Phoenix.
Not much is known yet about why some patients, the so-called “COVID long haulers," retain lingering symptoms, while others who have been infected don't.
“We were looking for factors that might influence who would experience long COVID symptoms and what the severity might be,” said Michael Simon, director of data science at Arcadia, which collects and aggregates health care data. “This is part of a larger group, the COVID-19 Patient Recovery Alliance, which is a large group working to identify causes and help develop policies for long COVID.”
Researchers there analyzed COVID-19 data for more than 26 million patients, including 1.6 million that got COVID. Then they examined their vaccination statuses – specifically, when they got the shot.
“Individuals who were vaccinated against COVID, even if they got a diagnosis of COVID, it seems that those who were vaccinated had a reduced likelihood of experiencing long COVID symptoms,” Simon said.
That may not come as much of a surprise: people who were vaccinated, but still got COVID, seemed to avoid becoming a long-hauler. However, for those who had not been vaccinated before getting COVID, researchers made a surprising discovery.
“Even if you weren't vaccinated prior to diagnosis, the sooner after their diagnosis that they were vaccinated, the better protected they were against long COVID symptoms,” Simon said.
In other words, getting a shot from one of the available vaccines after a patient got COVID appeared to reduce the chance of that patient developing long-haul symptoms. The study is in the process of being submitted to a peer-reviewed medical journal.
The findings could be significant, considering 1 in 3 people infected by COVID could experience long-hauler symptoms. According to the CDC, so far, more than 50 million people in the U.S. have had COVID, with more getting infected by the omicron variant every day.
“This kind of study shows that even if we're looking at events that are beyond the point we've already been infected, it seems that there are still opportunities for your health to be improved through the use of vaccination,” Simon said.
They are vaccines that, in America at least, remain available for the taking.