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Some COVID-19 long-haulers report improved symptoms after vaccine

Published: Apr. 5, 2021 at 6:09 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - For those suffering from prolonged COVID-19 symptoms, known as long-haulers, there may be some added hope attached to the vaccine to finally get rid of those symptoms.

Coughing, brain fog, shortness of breath and a lost sense of smell are just a few of the symptoms COVID-19 long-haulers are still dealing with after contracting the virus.

“They’re basically people that have COVID-type symptoms that can last for weeks,” said Dr. Laura Vogel-Schwartz, a BayCare Clinic emergency medicine physician.

Some COVID-19 long-haulers have been living with symptoms for months.

“We don’t really understand it and it’s probably really a diverse group, there’s not probably just one thing that creates a long hauler,” said Dr. Vogel-Schwartz.

However, there is some added hope with the vaccine. In an unscientific poll of 700 COVID-19 survivors, 39 percent reported their symptoms improved after getting the vaccine. Forty-six percent had no change in symptoms after the vaccine and 15 percent said their symptoms worsened.

Dr. Vogel-Schwartz said there are two theories as to why this could happen.

“The theory is that some of these people still have some of the virus remnants in their body and then the vaccine mounts a strong immune response in your body and you clear it,” said Dr. Vogel-Schwartz.

The other theory is that some people have developed an autoimmune response to the virus.

“Your body is dysregulated so it’s attacking itself,” said Dr. Vogel-Schwartz. “By priming it with this vaccine, that helps to kind of reset that and you no longer have this autoimmune response.”

Why would a person’s antibodies not help in this case?

“If you analyze people afterwards, not everybody has a sufficient level of antibodies. It may not be as robust of a response,” said Dr. Vogel-Schwartz. “(For) both of these theories the idea is that you get this vaccine, you mount an immune response and you either clear those remnant particles or you reset your body and the autoimmune issue is no longer there.”

Dr. Vogel-Schwartz said scientific studies are ongoing on this topic because we still don’t know why someone may become a long-hauler.

“You didn’t have to have severe disease to end up as a long hauler,” said Dr. Vogel-Schwartz.

Dr. Vogel-Schwartz said the best option for everyone, including long-haulers, is to get the vaccine when you can.

“If you already have had COVID and you’re a long- hauler, what’s going to happen if you get it again? The best way to prevent yourself from getting COVID again, is to get the vaccine. So I would encourage these people to get the vaccine,” said Dr. Vogel-Schwartz.

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