Covid-19 vaccines found to protect against long Covid

Patient receiving a vaccine

A study has revealed that Covid-19 vaccines are effective in preventing long Covid, but the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine provided better protection than ChAdOx1, developed by Oxford University/AstraZeneca.

A research team at NDORMS (Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology, and Musculoskeletal Sciences), University of Oxford has found that vaccination against Covid-19 consistently reduced the risk of long Covid symptoms.

Dani Prieto-Alhambra, Professor of Pharmaco- and Device Epidemiology, who led the study explained: “Vaccines proved to be highly effective in preventing severe Covid-19 but it’s known that around one in 10 people suffer from persistent symptoms, what we call long Covid. We wanted to assess if Covid vaccines had any impact on long Covid symptoms, and obtained funding from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) to conduct a study to research this.”

The study included extensive analyses using primary care electronic health records from the UK, Spain, and Estonia. The team examined data from more than 20 million vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals and identified cases of long Covid based on specific criteria defined by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Across the different cohorts analysed, the researchers observed a significant decrease in the occurrence of long Covid among vaccinated individuals compared to those who were unvaccinated.

Dr Annika Jodicke, Senior Pharmacoepidemiologist and study co-lead, said: “We were able to demonstrate how both vaccines prevented the development of persistent Covid symptoms. Additionally, we compared different vaccinations and found that the BNT162b2 vaccine (BioNTech/Pfizer) provided better protection against long Covid compared to the ChAdOx1 vaccine (Oxford/AstraZeneca).”

Funded by the NIHR through a specific call to research long Covid prevention and treatment, and with partial support from the NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre (BRC), the study offers valuable insights to inform public health strategies and vaccination campaigns worldwide.

No current long Covid treatment

Despite the number of patients affected and the global impact, there are currently no effective treatments for long Covid.

In an interview, Bill Hinshaw, President & CEO of Axcella Therapeutics, told DDW: “It is critical that we find a way to successfully treat long Covid fatigue. Long Covid fatigue is a large, important, ongoing, and as-yet untreated complication of Covid-19 infection. There are millions of people currently suffering who need relief now, and unfortunately, even more who will in the future, as the virus continues to mutate and spread. We encourage continued efforts to understand and approach treatments for long Covid.”

Read more: Long Covid: A call to action for drug developers

Diana Spencer, Senior Digital Content Editor, DDW

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