A newly published study in the journal Nature Medicine on Wednesday indicated that COVID-19 vaccines offer only a little protection to cut the risk of long COVID.
Long COVID is characterized by hundreds of different symptoms such as fatigue, chest pain, and brain fog lasting more than three months.
The study involved 33,940 people who experienced breakthrough COVID infections after full vaccination with either Pfizer (NYSE:PFE)/BioNTech (BNTX), Moderna (MRNA) or Johnson & Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) COVID-19 vaccines.
The researchers also looked at 113,000 people, who had been infected but not previously vaccinated, and over 13 million people, who had not been infected. The information collected from January to December 2021 were based on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs national healthcare databases.
According to the researchers, the vaccination lowered the risk of developing long COVID by only about 15% in those who got infected.
“Now we’re saying it’s only going to protect you 15%. You remain vulnerable, and extraordinarily so,” said Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, the lead author of the study and chief of research and development service at VA Saint Louis Health Care System.
“I was hoping to see that vaccines offer more protection, especially given that vaccines are our only line of defense nowadays.”
However, Steven Deeks, an HIV researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, pointed out that the study did not consider the period when Omicron drove a majority of COVID infections in the U.S.
“We have no data on whether Omicron causes long COVID,” he said, adding that the findings “apply to a pandemic that has changed dramatically.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in five adult COVID survivors in the U.S. are likely to develop long COVID.