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Does Vaccination Protect Against Long COVID?

As many as 50 percent of COVID-19 infections result in lasting symptoms, or long COVID.

As many as 50 percent of people who had COVID-19 develop symptoms of long COVID.

COVID-19 is an extremely contagious disease that can cause serious illness.

While a COVID-19 infection resolves within weeks (but sometimes as many as six weeks), there are many people who experience what is known as “long COVID,” also known as “post COVID.”

Long COVID refers to ongoing symptoms and health problems that occur after a COVID-19 infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these symptoms develop during or after the initial infection and continue for more than two months. These symptoms cannot be explained by another diagnosis—and it’s important to rule out other potential causes of any symptoms a person experiences following a COVID-19 infection.

While there are no definitive statistics for the number of people who experience long COVID, research shows that as many as 50 percent of people who had COVID-19 develop symptoms of long COVID.

What are the symptoms of long COVID

Symptoms of long COVID present differently from person to person, but may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Persistent cough
  • Difficulty concentrating (sometimes called “brain fog”)
  • Gastrointestinal pain
  • Heart palpitations
  • Changes in menstrual cycle
  • Headache
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Anxiety and/or depression
  • Muscle, joint, or body aches

Since there is no specific treatment for long COVID, most treatment plans focus on addressing specific symptoms. This can involve working with a number of different healthcare providers.

Some people may need to work with a respiratory therapist, neurologist, cardiologist, sleep specialist, mental health specialist, or some combination of these specialists to address specific needs and health problems. As symptoms change, a treatment plan might change.

Currently, it’s unknown why some people experience long COVID and others do not. Long COVID affects people who are young and old, people who are healthy as well as people with existing health conditions. It has affected people who had severe illness, those who had mild illness, and even those who had asymptomatic infections—although some studies have shown that people who had more severe illness from COVID-19 may be more likely to develop long COVID.

Do vaccines protect against long COVID?

In order to have long COVID, you have to have a COVID-19 infection to begin with—and vaccines help prevent a person from being infected with COVID-19.

In that sense, vaccines do prevent long COVID. They also help prevent you from passing the virus on to someone else who may experience long COVID as a result.

Research about the risk of long COVID among people who have breakthrough infections is ongoing, but there are studies that show people who are vaccinated and experience a breakthrough infection are less likely to have long COVID. In some cases, people who have long COVID saw their symptoms improve after receiving a vaccine.

If you have any questions or concerns about COVID-19, long COVID, or the vaccine, a healthcare provider will be your best source of information.

Article sources open article sources

Johns Hopkins Medicine. "Coronavirus Diagnosis: What Should I Expect?"
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Post-COVID Conditions."
Annie Lennon. "Long COVID: Risk factors and how to mitigate them." MedicalNewsToday. February 17, 2022.
Maxime Taquet, Quentin Dercon, et al. "Incidence, co-occurrence, and evolution of long-COVID features: A 6-month retrospective cohort study of 273,618 survivors of COVID-19." PLOS MEDICINE. September 28, 2021.
Mayo Clinic. "COVID-19 (coronavirus): Long-term effects."
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Management of Post-COVID Conditions."
Penn Medicine. "Post-COVID Assessment and Recovery Clinic."
Stanford Health Care. "Post-Acute COVID-19 Syndrome (PACS) Clinic."
UC Davis Health. "Long COVID: Some COVID-19 symptoms last for months."
Johns Hopkins Medicine. "COVID ‘Long Haulers’: Long-Term Effects of COVID-19"
Elisabeth Mahase. "Covid-19: Vaccinated people are less likely to get long covid, review finds." BMJ, 2022. Vol. 376.
UK Health Security Agency. "The effectiveness of vaccination against long COVID: A rapid evidence briefing."
BBC News. "Vaccinated less likely to develop long Covid." February 15, 2022.
Sara Berg. What doctors wish patients knew about long COVID." AMA. October 22, 2021.
World Health Organization Vaccine Safety Basics. "Subunit Vaccines."
SinoBiological. "Spike Protein / S Protein."
Sara Berg. "What doctors wish patients knew about long COVID." American Medical Association. October 22, 2021.
UpToDate. "COVID-19: Evaluation and management of adults following acute viral illness."
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Long-Term Symptoms Among Adults Tested for SARS-CoV-2 — United States, January 2020–April 2021."

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