When I hear the question of why on earth someone should be vaccinated against covid-19 if they can still get the disease if they don’t wear a mask and behave like big people in a pandemic, the first answer is: to escape from an ICU and stay alive or, if you really want to be a nice citizen, to do your part so that others can live too.
To my ears, that sounds like a good enough answer. But there are other arguments and one of them, pointed out by recent studies, is that vaccination would probably be able to avoid long-covid.
Now, for some people it even seems like the Sars-CoV 2 arrives and won’t let go. Coronavirus infection passes but does not. That’s because, for a good few months, they continue to experience body aches, intestinal cramps, fatigue, shortness of breath and difficulty concentrating and memory that mess up their daily lives.
In fact, there are people who, only long after the acute phase of the illness is gone, do they begin to feel that all their thoughts would be blurred under a cloud of mental confusion.
Perrengue, contrary to what was thought back there, can occur even in those who have not developed a serious picture of the disease. In fact, it happens even with those who barely felt anything when being infected. The hypothesis that it can be stopped or, at the very least, relieved is another point in favor of vaccination.
Vaccinated versus unvaccinated
The possibility that vaccines avert the risk of long covid-covid is now clearer with preliminary data from a study by French researchers at the Hôtel-Dieu Hospital in Paris, involving 455 vaccinated individuals and another 455 individuals who had not taken the vaccine against the covid-19.
Overall, 81 participants needed to be hospitalized. And, in common with the 900+, all complained of persistent symptoms of the infection. The scientists then compared the two groups — vaccinated and unvaccinated — 120 days after the end of the acute phase, when the PCR test for covid-19 turned negative.
They also took care to compare people with the same degree of disease severity, without mixing people with mild conditions with those who needed intensive care. Thus, if the persistent symptoms were milder in the vaccinated class, we could not imagine that it would have been just the consequence of her not having suffered anything more serious while she was infected — which is more to be expected after the injection against Sars-CoV .
And there was no other: after four months of analysis, there was a much more significant reduction in symptoms among those who had received the vaccine. In fact, in 95% of these individuals, persistent symptoms had completely disappeared. This proportion was double that observed in the unvaccinated.
“I don’t even look at these results with surprise,” confesses infectious disease specialist and pediatrician Renato Kfouri, director of SBIm (Brazilian Society of Immunizations). “Even when there is a vaccine failure, that is, when the protection provided by the vaccine was not enough to prevent the disease, it prevents the situation from getting worse. And, when it manages to create this barrier to aggravation, we can already deduce that it too be efficient against what, in Medicine, we call secondary outcomes”, he says.
in other diseases
Secondary outcomes are, so to speak, the consequence of what would be the main objective of an immunizer — preventing the infection itself, which in this case is not always possible. According to Renato Kfouri, what we are observing in those vaccinated against covid-19 happens in other situations in the universe of immunizations — hence his deduction. And he gives the example of bronchiolitis.
This inflammation in the bronchioles, the very thin branches that carry air into the lungs, is most often caused by RSV, the respiratory syncytial virus. It most often affects children under the age of 2, who have not yet fully developed their immunity.
In the first months of life, however, this infection is much more dangerous and the solution then is to inject in sick babies, who barely have the strength to breathe, antibodies against RSV developed in the laboratory.
“This treatment not only alleviates the symptoms of the infection that is occurring at that time, as we have seen, it greatly reduces the risk of that child persisting with wheezing and asthma in the future, which are such secondary outcomes of bronchiolitis”, explains the doctor.
The infectologist Alberto Chebabo, vice president of the SBI (Brazilian Society of Infectology) gives another example of the genre, but this one related to a vaccine in adults.
“In herpes zoster, we know that vaccination does not eliminate the threat of someone getting the disease either. However, those who are vaccinated will hardly develop a picture of post-herpetic neuralgia”, says he, who is also director of Hospital Clementino Fraga Filho from UFRJ (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro) and medical relationship manager at Dasa.
Therefore, the immunizing against the herpes zoster virus prevents the constant burning sensation in the body, which becomes painful souvenir of this infection, taking a long time to disappear. Stopping her is no small feat. As it is not negligible to realize that the vaccine against Sars-CoV 2 would reduce the cases of long-covid.
And the vaccine in the case of those who already have the long-covid?
The French work, I’m good to tell you, was not the first to report the effects of vaccination on long-covid. Last month, for example, it was also published in the magazine The Lancet O COVID Sympton Study, conducted by researchers from the King’s College London, in England, which used a mobile app so that Britons over 18 with a confirmed diagnosis of the disease could easily report how they were feeling.
They were later divided into groups. In the first, were those who had received the initial dose of vaccine between December of last year and July of this year and who became infected 14 days or more after that first injection before taking the second. In another group were individuals who were infected by Sars-CoV 2 even after completing the two-dose vaccination schedule.
Both groups were compared, of course, with people who gave up the opportunity to protect themselves with the vaccine. Most of these unvaccinated people who had covid-19 had five or more symptoms and, if not all, some of them persisted 28 days after the end of the acute phase. Detail: this proportion was almost five times higher than among those vaccinated.
It is worth noting, however, that none of the participants had been diagnosed with covid-19 prior to vaccination. Hence, the following question remains in the air: would it be that in those who took the vaccine later, already showing signs of a long-laid, the injection of the immunizing agent would not relieve anything, anything?
“Yes, there is = evidence of improvement in these persistent cases, especially in neurological complications, which are the most common, such as fatigue, difficulty sleeping, mood swings and concentration problems,” says Alberto Chebabo.
Probably, the vaccination would somehow adjust the reactions of the immune system behind the persistent conditions. “A big gap is precisely to understand how and why long-covid happens”, recognizes infectologist Renato Kfouri, from SBIm. “For now, we only have theories, some pointing to a direct action of the virus and others to our defenses.”
For Alberto Chebabo, what makes research difficult to check the effect of the vaccine on those who already have long-covid is that this term encompasses a huge diversity of complaints. We would, therefore, need to separate the cases in which they are caused by the infection itself from those in which they are the sequelae of a prolonged hospitalization requiring intubation and mechanical ventilation, as few leave this experience whole in one piece.
In cases where what appears to be a prolonged symptom of the infection is actually the price of intensive care, experts are unanimously betting that the vaccination will not affect anything—well, let’s make it clear.
But in those people whose symptoms are in fact a remnant of the presence of the coronavirus or a result of the insistence of the immune system, then maybe vaccines will help a bit. One more reason for those who already had the disease to stop listening to nonsense and complete their vaccination schedule or run after the booster at the right time.