A review of studies from around the world finds that getting vaccinated halves the risk of long COVID-19.

For the review, a team led by researchers from the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom looked at data from 41 studies involving more than 860,000 patients to gauge risk factors for the array of symptoms that can linger after a COVID infection.

Several groups were more likely to experience long COVID, including women, people who are overweight or over 40, smokers, and those with anxiety, depression and preexisting conditions such as asthma, COPD, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease or suppressed immune systems.

Patients hospitalized with COVID were also more likely to experience 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,” said researcher Dr. Vassilios Vassiliou, a clinical professor of cardiac medicine at the university’s Norwich Medical School.

“These findings are important because they enable us to better understand who may develop long COVID and also advocate for the benefit of vaccination,” he said in a university news release.

Long COVID affects about 2 million people in the United Kingdom. The U.S. Government Accountability Office estimates that up to 23 million Americans have been affected by long COVID.

Symptoms, which persist for more than 12 weeks after infection, include shortness of breath, coughing, heart palpitations, headaches, severe fatigue, 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.

“Our findings help define the full demographic characteristics and the risk factors for developing long COVID,” said co-author Dr. Eleana Ntatsaki of University College London and Ipswich Hospital in the U.K. She said doctors can now better understand, plan for and serve this population.

“Furthermore, we can have a better strategy for optimizing any modifiable risk factors, with public health promotion campaigns, encouraging smoking cessation, vaccination and healthy weight management in the target population,” Ntatsaki said in the release.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on long COVID.

SOURCE: University of East Anglia, news release, March 23, 2023

Source: HealthDay

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