Double vaccination cuts the risk of long COVID in half

LONDON — Double vaccinations, or following up by getting your second dose of the coronavirus vaccine, can cut the chances of developing “long hauler” symptoms in half for people who get a breakthrough case of COVID-19.

Researchers with King’s College London say the vaccine is key to preventing new cases of COVID-19 during the pandemic. Despite this, there’s still a small chance vaccinated individuals contract the virus. Their study finds having that second dose in your system reduces the risk of suffering from long-lasting side-effects by 49 percent.

The team analyzed over a million participants using the UK ZOE COVID Symptom Study app between Dec. 8, 2020 and July 4, 2021. Those individuals included 1,240,009 vaccinated adults in the U.K. who received their first dose and 971,504 who also had their second vaccine dose.

Researchers also looked at factors like age and frailty and compared them with post-vaccination infection rates. The study shows that, in the event of catching COVID even after a double vaccination, the odds of dealing with long COVID drops significantly over the following weeks and months. Previous studies have discovered that patients with long COVID can continue to experience over 200 long hauler symptoms after the infection leaves their system.

The benefits of a second vaccine dose

Along with a smaller chance of long COVID, the team finds patients also cut their odds of needing hospitalization for COVID-19 by 73 percent. The chances of suffering from severe or acute coronavirus symptoms drops by 31 percent among fully vaccinated people.

Typically, the symptoms of COVID-19 are the same whether you are double vaccinated or not. Patients generally experience a loss of smell, cough, fever, headaches, and fatigue. However, these ailments are milder and occur less frequently when someone receives both of their shots.

Who’s most at risk for COVID breakthroughs?

Unfortunately, the study finds people in less affluent areas are at higher risk of infection after their first vaccination. While age alone did not appear to be a major risk factor for COVID infections, study authors say health conditions that limit independence (like frailty) make someone twice as likely to contract coronavirus after vaccination.

“In terms of the burden of Long COVID, it’s good news that our research has found that having a double vaccination significantly reduces the risk of both catching the virus and if you do, developing long standing symptoms. However, among our frail, older adults and those living in deprived areas the risk is still significant and they should be urgently prioritized for second and booster vaccinations,” says Dr. Claire Steves in a university release.

“Vaccinations are massively reducing the chances of people getting Long COVID in two ways. Firstly, by reducing the risk of any symptoms by 8 to 10 fold and then by halving the chances of any infection turning into Long COVID, if it does happen. Whatever the duration of symptoms we are seeing that infections after two vaccinations are also much milder, so vaccines are really changing the disease and for the better. We are encouraging people to get their 2nd jab as soon as they can,” adds Professor Tim Spector.

The findings appear in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

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About the Author

Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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