For those experiencing long-term health issues associated with the novel coronavirus, the vaccine could be a life-saver, according to recent reports.
Some Covid-19 long haulers say they’ve noticed an “instant recovery” after receiving the the coronavirus vaccine, CNN reported.
While this may not be the case for all those experiencing Long Covid, some have shown an immediate response to the injection.
Covid-19 patient Jessamyn Smyth said she faced various health issues even after recovering from the virus. These include breathlessness, irregular and rapid heartbeat, diarrhoea and unusual skin rashes for months. Like many “long haulers,” Smyth struggled on a daily basis.
Meanwhile an American writer and humanities professor in Holyoke, Massachusetts, was affected in other ways. The professor, who is also an avid swimmer, said she faced difficulty recalling basic words such as “punctuation,” after contracting the virus, according to the CNN report.
“In the end, I lost two jobs, the end of my mother’s cognitive life and her transition into dementia care, a partner and home, all financial security—and, I feared, my life and identity as an endurance swimmer (and) athlete,” she said.
🦠Though Covid-19 symptoms can typically recover in two weeks, young, European expat Lisa was among some of the patients that weren’t so lucky. This is her story. Read more 👇 https://t.co/AbafZ3OFcz
— Doha News (@dohanews) February 5, 2021
This all changed when she received the Covid-19 vaccine.
The positive news quickly surfaced on social media, prompting excited researchers and health experts to scramble for scientific answers.
Smyth’s resting heart rate reverted to what is expected of an athlete, going from 150 beats per minute post-Covid to between 60 and 100.
“My skin was different. My brain was different. I began to feel like myself for the first time in a year,” she said.
Her fatigue and cognitive issues got “noticeably better” within just a few weeks after receiving the vaccine. She added that her rashes disappeared and her health condition started continuously improving after her second Pfizer shot.
However, specialists and researchers are still looking into the cases and are attempting to find the science on why and how this is happening.
Researchers ‘looking into it’
According America’s National Institutes of Health, some 10% to 30% of those who contract Covid-19 experience long-term symptoms. However, there aren’t yet enough formal studies looking into recoveries after receiving the Covid-19 vaccine.
In the United Kingdom, studies have been launched to compare how those hospitalised with Covid-19 fared after vaccination versus previously hospitalised Covid-19 patients who weren’t vaccinated, CNN reported.
The observational study, which has yet to undergo peer review, found some 23% of those vaccinated reported symptom resolution, while 15% of unvaccinated participants also said they felt better.
However, the UK study had a small sample size of 44 participants, and out of that number not enough recorded a noticeable improvement.
“The issue is thus far that it’s anecdotal,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, during a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on March 17.
“Many people get better anyway, and if you get vaccinated and get better, you are not sure whether it’s the vaccine or the spontaneous recovery. So you’ll have to do a randomised trial in order to determine that,” the doctor pointed out.
Although such reports are considered anecdotal, they could indicate a pattern.
“It’s getting to be a large number of reports, hundreds of reports of patients that we’ve been caring for with Covid almost a year now,” said Dr. Daniel Griffin, chief of infectious disease at ProHealth and an instructor in clinical medicine at Columbia University.
“They are reporting that following vaccination they’re having significant, if not complete, resolution of their long Covid symptoms,” Dr. Griffin added.
About 30% to 40% of his Long Covid patients reported an improvement after vaccinations, he said.
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Pfizer told CNN that the company could look into the question as part of a post hoc analysis of its studies.
Theoretically, Long Covid could be due to a weak immune response, Griffin pointed out. The vaccine could possibly boost immune response which helps the body combat the virus.
“One of the hypotheses is that this is virus-related, meaning that viruses are hiding behind in the form of a reservoir in the body, whether the actual virus or the genetic material of the virus which is causing long lasting, low level inflammation,” said Dr. Kartik Seghal, a medical oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and an instructor at Harvard Medical School.
However, Seghal, who co-authored a recent review article on long Covid in Nature Medicine, and Griffin both posed another hypothesis.
Long Covid could cause persistent immune dysfunction even after SARS-CoV-2 leaves the body, which could mean mRNA vaccines distributed by Pfizer and Moderna, which teach the immune system how to respond to a spike protein on the surface of the coronavirus, could represent what Griffin called a “hard reset for the immune system.”
Since there are reports of all three vaccines helping some long haulers, it’s likely they’re fighting an infection rather than fixing lingering immune dysfunction caused by the virus.
“It’s starting to get several of us thinking that maybe the viral persistence theory is the most persuasive based upon the data that we have,” Griffin said.
It’s too soon to tell if vaccine remissions are permanent or if long haulers are likely to relapse back to their same symptoms.
“I am very curious about the durability of this response,” he said.
Does everyone recover from Long Covid?
Although some long haulers reported an improvement after the vaccine, many people did not have a positive experience.
In some cases, the vaccine worsened the symptoms. Maneesh Juneja, is a digital health consultant in the UK who suffered from “horrible brain pressure” that made him feel like his brain is about to “explode.”
Juneja said his condition kept getting worse and worse after receiving the vaccine.
“I do feel worse in the three weeks after the vaccine versus the three weeks before the vaccine,” he wrote to CNN.
“However, there is no way of knowing if the vaccine triggered my relapse or if it was just going to happen anyway during the normal course of my illness,” he added.
He stressed that more recognition and research for Long Covid is needed.
“Many of the early insights into Long Covid and the impact of the vaccine have come from patient-led research,” he said.
“But not every Long Covid patient is part of an online patient community, so we do need more comprehensive research to really understand what impact the vaccine has on long Covid patients,” he suggested.