Vaccines may help alleviate symptoms for people with long-COVID

Here’s everything you need to know.
Vaccine shot vials on pink background.
Vaccines are already helping us fight COVID-19 in so many ways. Alena Shekhovtcova from Pexels

Click here to see all of PopSci’s COVID-19 coverage.

There’s been a lot of bad COVID-19 news over the last year, but luckily, thanks to vaccines, things are looking up. Here’s a round-up of some of the more positive news as we dredge through the final chapters of this pandemic.

Vaccinations may help COVID-19 survivors with long-term symptoms

It’s been shown time and time again that the impacts of COVID-19 last much longer than anyone would hope. And while we are still refining the definition of what long COVID-19 looks like, some of the symptoms include fatigue, brain fog, and flu-like symptoms. And while it’s relatively rare, it’s not uncommon; the NIH predicts that between 10 and 30 percent of people who have had a COVID-19 infection will have long-term symptoms. One small, not-yet peer-reviewed study released Monday has shown, however, that a COVID-19 vaccination can slightly help ease up, resolve, or prevent worsening of long COVID symptoms compared to a group of unvaccinated long-haulers.

“Clearly any sign of improvement in the wellbeing of those with long Covid is good news, and as such this study offers some tentative hope for those suffering,” co-founder of Long Covid Kids Frances Simpson, a professor of psychology at Coventry University in the UK, told The Independent.

[Related: How to prepare for getting the COVID-19 vaccine.]

Yale immunologist Akiko Iwasaki told The Washington Post that it isn’t particularly surprising that the vaccine could reduce the chances of reinfection and symptoms of long COVID. “Vaccines will generate good antibody and T-cell responses. They have been already shown to significantly reduce infection, both symptomatic and asymptomatic,” she told the Post.

The first baby in the US was born with COVID-19 antibodies

A baby born in South Florida came into the world already prepped to fight the COVID-19 virus with antibodies. The baby’s mother, a front-line worker, had received her first shot of the Moderna vaccine three weeks prior. Two doctors detailed the case in a pre-print, or not yet peer-reviewed study. These results, while still early and in need of further research, may make pregnant people more inclined to get vaccinated against COVID-19, especially since there is not a vaccine approved yet for children.

“This also is hopeful because it offers a level of protection to one of the most vulnerable populations, the newborn,” Neeta Ogden, a New Jersey internal medicine specialist and immunologist told CBS News.

Two other pre-print studies, out of Israel and Massachusetts, found similarly hopeful results.

[Related: Pregnant people can—and should—get vaccinated against COVID-19.]

“Maternal vaccine-generated antibodies were detected in the umbilical cord blood of all 10 babies who delivered during our study period,” Andrea Edlow, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital and co-author of the Massachusetts pre-print, told CBS. “Our data suggest that receiving both shots of the mRNA vaccine leads to improved antibody transfer to newborns.”

Just last month Pfizer started clinical trials of the vaccine in pregnant populations.

Americans are being diligent about receiving their second dose of the vaccine

Public health experts have been concerned that for those receiving Moderna’s and Pfizer’s two-shot vaccine, not everyone would return for their second dose. But new CDC data shows that nearly nine out of every 10 first-shot-vaccinated Americans went back on time for their second dose. The data was based on a sample of 40.5 million Americans who were vaccinated between December 14, 2020, and February 14, 2021, and of the folks that got their second shot, nearly all of them got it on time.

The most likely groups to miss their second dose were Native American or Alaska Native individuals, according to The New York Times. And since the sample is from the earliest group of vaccine receivers, there may be some bias since those with the most urgent need, like health-care workers, were among the first to receive the vaccine in December through February.

“Among all persons who received a second dose, the majority (95.6 percent) had done so within the recommended interval,” the authors of the CDC paper write. “These data are reassuring; however, the groups prioritized to receive the vaccine during this period were more likely to have been vaccinated at their work site or residence, including health care workers and long-term care facility residents, which might have facilitated adherence to the recommended schedule.”