The Doctors note symptoms seen in COVID long-haulers can include brain fog, memory problems, extreme muscle weakness, heart racing, hair loss, and odd rashes -- and they can last for weeks and months after patients recover from the virus.
Now that vaccines are being distributed, health officials are seeing a welcome response in some after getting the shot.
“I started getting texts and calls from some of my colleagues saying hey, are your patients with long COVID reporting that they’re feeling better after the vaccine?” Daniel Griffin, an infectious diseases clinician and researcher at Columbia University tells The Verge. “It’s not 100 percent, but it does seem like to be around a third."
It should be noted further studies are needed on this theory and these reports are largely anecdotal, but health experts say these reports are encouraging and may help researchers unlock the reason behind why some COVID patients experience long-term issues.
Yale University immunologist Akiko Iwasaki explains to The Verge that one theory is that the virus remains in the body in small amounts and continues to cause immune system problems and once someone is vaccinated, the leftover virus is dealt with. “Potentially, those remnants are removed because you’re generating a lot of antibodies," she notes. Another theory is the vaccine provides the body with a temporary jolt to the immune system, Iwasaki explains, noting some patients have reported the relief from their long-term issues was short-lived.
Conversely, Dr. Farha Ikramuddin, a physiatrist at the University of Minnesota Medical School who works at a long COVID clinic, tells U.S. News and World Report, "The second vaccine resulted in almost like a reappearance of the symptoms that they had initially seen when they were diagnosed," explaining she has not yet seen a patient who has said their symptoms improved after being vaccinated.
Another COVID long-hauler area to be examined is the reported study that found 32 percent of patients who developed long-term issues related to COVID had an asymptomatic infection when they first became sick. The study looked at 1,407 people in California who had COVID and were not hospitalized and found that after 60 days from their infection, 27 percent had issues like shortness of breath, chest pain, cough, or abdominal pain.
Further clarity about whether the vaccine can help long-haulers is underway, as The National Institutes of Health has launched an initiative to further study the causes of COVID long-haulers and identify possible treatment options.