This wretched pandemic has been full of terrible mysteries, and long COVID has been among the most confounding. Long haul COVID — a condition that involves lingering ailments that sometimes follow infection — is strange enough that, for a while at the beginning, some people found it the whole idea of it kind of sus. But the reality of long COVID, which sometimes included flu-like symptoms, fatigue, and loss of smell and taste, persisted. And now it could be qualified as a disability, for some.
Once we got the vaccines, it was evident that some people would get breakthrough infections, but we had no idea if their symptoms would stick around for long. Luckily, a fairly large new study suggests that vaccinated people who get breakthrough infections are less likely to get long COVID.
The study, which was published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal on Wednesday, was part of what’s referred to as the “COVID Symptom Study,” where 1.2 participants across the U.K. were asked to use an app to self-report their symptoms. Participants were people who had had two doses of the Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca vaccines, and also included a control group of unvaccinated people and people who received only one dose, reported the New York Times.
In case you need another reason to get that second shot, this study offers plenty of material. Only 0.2% of doubly vaccinated participants reported breakthrough infections, and those who did get were twice as likely than unvaccinated people to be asymptomatic. Unvaccinated individuals were 51% more likely to get long COVID symptoms. T
o put that all in context, of the almost million vaccinated people the study analyzed, only 2,370 reported breakthrough infections, and those people were 49% less likely to have any symptoms after two weeks than unvaccinated people.
In case all those numbers are making your head spin, let me break the most important finding down: In fully vaccinated people, breakthrough infections appeared quite rarely, and most of the people who got them didn’t have symptoms. Even if they did have symptoms, they were far less likely to experience them for a prolonged amount of time. Seeing data to back up the anecdotal reports of people’s NBD breakthrough infections is, needless to say, very encouraging.
“This is the first study showing that long COVID is reduced by double vaccination, and it’s reduced significantly,” Claire Steves, a geriatrician at King’s College London and the study’s lead author, told the Times. This is crucial for us to know because, as Steves emphasized, “we don’t have any treatments for long COVID.” The best way to prevent contracting and getting very sick from COVID — despite what Joe Rogan seems to believes — is to get vaccinated.
The study does have some limitations, as the data was self-reported. But it is, frankly, impossible to conduct a study of this magnitude in a lab. Hopefully, the findings will convince more people to get vaccinated.