do vaccines prevent persistent covid?

Despite the fact that the number of infections in this wave has been completely out of control for weeks, the low percentage of serious cases means that the drama is less than in other critical moments of the pandemic. Vaccines definitely work and prevent the most serious consequences. However, this unprecedented episode of massive infection leaves an unknown in the air: what will happen to the persistent covid? Studies indicate that around 15% of people who have suffered from the disease continue to have symptoms months later. If the number was already high before, in this new phase we could be adding tens of thousands of patients daily that in a long time they would continue to suffer from fevers, tiredness, malaise, memory loss or headaches and muscle aches, among other symptoms.

However, we do not know how ómicron will behave with respect to persistent covid. Will it generate as many cases as the previous variants or will it also have milder effects regarding the sequels? In addition, apart from the effect of this new variant, To what extent can vaccines protect us? So far, there are more questions than answers regarding a problem with very varied symptoms and unknown origin. Investigating this issue is not easy, although more data is beginning to be available.

‘Boosters’, 4th dose, omicron dose… Why the current vaccine ‘salad’ is unsustainable

José Pichel

For example, a study developed in Israel with 951 patients indicates clear differences in post-covid symptoms between vaccinated and unvaccinated. On the whole, most of these problems were reduced by around 60% among those who had received the full regimen (two doses). The researchers looked at the most common ailments of persistent covid: fatigue, headache, weakness, and persistent muscle pain. After studying various groups of those infected between March 2020 and November 2021, they concluded that vaccination reduces the probability of suffering all these consequences after a few months. The analysis includes both vaccinated who became infected later and people who had passed the disease and were vaccinated later.

Experts are optimistic about the results, although cautiously, since it is a preliminary study. “We are having more information, but it is still scarce,” Pilar Rodríguez Ledo, vice president of the Spanish Society of General and Family Physicians (SEMG), responsible for research at this entity and promoter of studies on persistent covid in Spain, told Teknautas. Spain. Israel’s work shows the immediate effect of vaccination, but “we have to assess the long-term effects and analyze that information according to different profiles”, he comments.

The SEMG has also carried out a study on the effect of vaccines on Spanish patients who already had persistent covid, research still pending publication. “There is a profile of patients who improve with vaccination, but we do not know if this improvement is maintained over time”, he warns. Mainly, these are people who suffer from this disease in the form of outbreaks or spikes, with specific moments in which they present more symptoms. This therapeutic effect of the vaccines could be explained by the fact that the doses manage to make the immune system react, but it is not known why it only benefits some patients.

Headache.

In general, ignorance of the causes of persistent covid prevents clearer conclusions from being drawn. One theory is that the virus remains hidden in certain parts of the body beyond the acute phase. Another would be the existence of autoantibodies that are attacked by the immune system. A third suggests that the immune response may be altered by the infection. Nor is it ruled out that the causes are different in different groups of patients, which would explain the different response to the vaccines.

be prepared

In any case, the big question at the moment is whether this sixth wave of covid, characterized by mild cases, will continue to leave a trail of persistent covid in the coming months. Logic suggests that serious illness leaves more sequels. However, the reality is that “this type of patient not characterized by severity in its acute phase, at least in most cases”, recalls Rodríguez Ledo. There are even many patients who were asymptomatic. The most common profile is that of middle-aged women, far removed from the prototype of patients who end up hospitalized. According to the definition of the World Health Organization (WHO), the symptoms that persist after 12 weeks of infection would become persistent covid.

At the moment, “we are very busy seeing how serious the omicron is, the mortality it generates and the occupation in the ICU”, comments the SEMG expert. “Although there are fewer symptoms, with many more infections, the absolute numbers are not negligible. What we need to know is, precisely, what will be the persistence of symptoms. If the percentage of affectation is maintained, or even if it drops a little, it will be a large number”, he warns.

Photo: Photo: EFE.
The unexpected effect of vaccines: patients with persistent covid improve after the 2nd dose

José Pichel

To what extent is it worrying? “I believe that we should not be alarmed, but we must be attentive and prepared. We should be ahead of the virus and forecast. The problem is that we do not have information on how the different waves have influenced the rates of persistence of symptoms. It is possible that ómicron produces differences not only in contagion and severity, but also with respect to persistent covid”, he comments.

Reinfections

Another characteristic of omicron that distinguishes this variant from the previous ones is that it is causing many reinfections. By having many mutations, this new version of the virus manages to avoid antibodies and many people who have had covid fall ill again. “For simple statistical reasons, there must be persistent covid patients who are being reinfected”, comments Rodríguez Ledo. In fact, “having symptoms does not have to protect from a new infection,” he warns. However, at the moment there is no data: “These patients, precisely because their health is deteriorating, take care of themselves and protect themselves more, so it is possible that this modifies their chances of contagion.”

What consequences can a new infection have for those who continue to have significant sequelae? “It is something that we are beginning to see now and we will have to analyze,” he says. Like other aspects of persistent covid, studying reinfections also presents significant difficulties. To get started,how to differentiate between a peak of symptoms that patients carry for months and a new infection? At first, it does not seem that getting the infection again is good news. However, once again, this is uncharted territory and intuitions can be misleading. “It is possible that these reinfections have an influence in a very similar way to how vaccination itself does, but it is still early to know,” says the person in charge of the SEMG.

Test. (EFE)

Along with patient groups, this medical society has tried to collect data since the beginning of the pandemic, but believes that this new wave can provide much more information. Therefore, doctors plan start a new follow-up of those affected and compare the new patients of persistent covid with those of previous waves. At the moment, “there is no data that indicates that the profile has changed”, acknowledges the vice president, but the evolution of the pandemic is so changing that it is worth studying the issue in depth.

Instead, they know better and better how those affected evolve. “There are some who improve and even have reversed most symptoms. Others are adapting to the new situation of their health status and have treatments, not to cure the disease, since we do not know the mechanism by which the virus generates this persistence of symptoms, but at least to improve quality of life ”, he comments. In this sense, it is still essential to investigate further and standardize the guidelines for action.

Despite the fact that the number of infections in this wave has been completely out of control for weeks, the low percentage of serious cases means that the drama is less than in other critical moments of the pandemic. Vaccines definitely work and prevent the most serious consequences. However, this unprecedented episode of massive infection leaves an unknown in the air: what will happen to the persistent covid? Studies indicate that around 15% of people who have suffered from the disease continue to have symptoms months later. If the number was already high before, in this new phase we could be adding tens of thousands of patients daily that in a long time they would continue to suffer from fevers, tiredness, malaise, memory loss or headaches and muscle aches, among other symptoms.

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