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Effect of COVID-19 Vaccination May Mitigate Long-Term COVID Effects


Long COVID written on a face mask with vaccines.

Image credits: Unsplash

COVID-19 vaccinations are recognized for their efficacy in preventing illness and mortality resulting from the virus, but their relationship with post-COVID conditions (PCCs) is still not fully elucidated. Preinfection vaccination may decrease the risk of various post-COVID conditions, potentially mitigating the long-term effects of COVID-19 and offering hope for improved health outcomes.

The research involved analyzing 161,531 cases of vaccinated individuals with COVID-19, matched with an equivalent number of unvaccinated cases. Compared to their unvaccinated counterparts, vaccinated individuals demonstrated similar or reduced risks across all PCC categories except for mental health disorders (relative risks [RR], 1.06; 95% CI, 1.02–1.10).

“In general, associations between vaccination status and PCC persisted across age groups, although with some evidence for slightly stronger associations at younger ages,” according to the investigators, led by Debbie Malden, DPhil, MS, an epidemiologist with Kaiser Permanente. “Furthermore, most associations between vaccination and PCC persisted across SARS-CoV-2 variant periods studied (ie, pre-Omicron vs. Omicron) and appeared to be unaffected by receipt of a third vaccine dose or time between last vaccination and SARS-CoV-2 infection.”

3 Key Takeaways

  1. COVID-19 vaccination appears to be associated with a decreased risk of various PCCs, indicated by over 300,000 individuals across multiple healthcare systems in the US.
  2. Vaccinated individuals demonstrated similar or reduced risks of PCC compared to their unvaccinated counterparts across most categories, highlighting the potential protective effect of vaccination against long-term COVID-19-related health issues.
  3. COVID-19 vaccination may play a crucial role not only in preventing severe illness and mortality but also in mitigating the long-term effects of the virus, offering hope for improved health outcomes among those who have been infected.

Vaccination was associated with a notable risk reduction of ≥10% across various categories of post-COVID conditions, including sensory (RR, 0.90; 95% CI, 0.86–0.95), circulatory (RR, 0.88; 95% CI, 0.83–0.94), blood and hematologic (RR, 0.79; 95% CI, 0.71–0.89), skin and subcutaneous (RR, 0.69; 95% CI, 0.66–0.72), and nonspecific COVID-19 related disorders (RR, 0.53; 95% CI, 0.51–0.56). These associations were notably stronger among younger age groups but remained significant regardless of SARS-CoV-2 variant period, receipt of 3 or more vaccine doses compared with 1–2 vaccine doses, or time elapsed since vaccination.

“In our study, while the observed protective effect of COVID-19 vaccination against PCC generally persisted across all age groups, some associations were more pronounced among younger populations, as has been shown elsewhere,” according to the investigators. “While vaccination has been shown to decrease the severity of illness among persons aged < 18 years previously, the current study is the first large-scale study to investigate the association between prior COVID-19 vaccination and PCC among children and adolescents.”

The researchers matched vaccinated and unvaccinated COVID-19 cases based on several parameters, including location, test date, severity of acute infection, age, and sex. Vaccination status was determined by analyzing 8 different EHR data and integrating information on externally administered vaccines. PCC was defined as any new diagnosis falling within one of 13 predefined PCC categories occurring between 30 days to 6 months following a positive SARS-CoV-2 test.

The first limitation in this study is differences in lifestyle and demographics between vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, followed by misclassification of vaccination status. While the study covered the Omicron variant period, the definition of post-COVID conditions was based on prior variants, potentially affecting comparability. The study did not consider the impact of COVID-19 treatments on outcomes. Interpretation of post-COVID condition risk among children should be cautious due to limited data consistency. Lastly, the primarily insured study population may limit generalizability.

Acknowledging its limitations, this study offers important insights into the role of COVID-19 vaccination in mitigating long-term post-COVID conditions. These findings underscore the importance of ongoing research and vaccination efforts to enhance understanding of potential outcomes.

Reference
Malden D, Liu I, Qian L, et. al. Post-COVID conditions following COVID-19 vaccination: a retrospective matched cohort study of patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection. Nature Communications. Published May 22, 2024. Accessed May 23, 2024. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-024-48022-9



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