Vaccination halves risk of long Covid, new study shows
Being vaccinated against Covid halves people’s risk of developing long Covid, according to new research from our Trust and the University of East Anglia.
Long Covid affects around two million people in the UK, and new research, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, reveals the risk factors associated with developing the condition.
Overweight people, women, smokers and those over the age of 40 are also more likely to suffer from long Covid according to the study – which includes more than 860,000 patients and is thought to be the largest of its kind.
The study also finds that co-morbidities such as asthma, COPD, Type 2 Diabetes, coronary heart disease, immunosuppression, anxiety and depression are also associated with increased risk of long Covid.
“Long Covid is a complex condition that develops during or after having Covid, and it is classified as such when symptoms continue for more than 12 weeks,” said Vassilios Vassiliou, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School and Honorary Consultant Cardiologist at the hospital.
“Just over two million people in the UK are thought to suffer with long Covid and it affects people in different ways. Breathlessness, a cough, heart palpitations, headaches, and severe fatigue are among the most prevalent symptoms.
“Other symptoms may include chest pain or tightness, brain fog, insomnia, dizziness, joint pain, depression and anxiety, tinnitus, loss of appetite, headaches, and changes to sense of smell or taste. We wanted to find out what factors might make people more or less susceptible to developing long Covid.”
The team looked at data from 41 studies around the world, involving a total of 860,783 patients, to investigate the risk factors for developing long Covid.
“We found that female sex, older age, increased BMI and smoking are associated with an increased risk of long Covid,” said Vassilios.
“In addition, co-morbidities such as asthma, COPD, Type 2 Diabetes, coronary heart disease, immunosuppression, anxiety and depression are also associated with increased risk. Furthermore, severe illness during the acute phase as reflected by the need for hospitalisation or admission to an intensive care unit, is also associated with the development of long Covid.
“Conversely, it was reassuring to see that people who had been vaccinated had significantly less risk – almost half the risk – of developing long Covid compared to unvaccinated participants.
“These findings are important because they enable us to better understand who may develop long Covid and also advocate for the benefit of vaccination.”
This research was led by the University of East Anglia in collaboration with the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, Imperial College London and Imperial College NHS Trust, Cambridge University Hospitals, Ipswich Hospital and University College London.
Some of the research team are funded and supported by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR).