WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- A new study on veterans showed that older adults are at a higher risk of developing long COVID.
- Symptoms of long COVID include fatigue, brain fog, shortness of breath, and blood clots.
- A separate study from the CDC showed that adults aged 65 and older, who previously contracted COVID-19, are at the highest risk for developing these symptoms.
Older adults are at a higher risk for long-term effects of COVID-19 despite being vaccinated, new research shows.
According to a study on veterans, about one-third of breakthrough infections showed symptoms of long COVID.
Long COVID is the term used when symptoms linger, recur, or appear at least one month after a coronavirus infection. Some symptoms include fatigue, brain fog, shortness of breath, and blood clots.
Vaccines that help prevent initial infections and serious illnesses also offer some protection against long COVID — but not as much as scientists first hoped.
The study on veterans reviewed medical records of mostly white male veterans with an average age of 60. Out of the 13 million veterans, almost 3 million received the vaccine last year through October.
Breakthrough infections constituted 1% at nearly 34,000. About 32% of breakthrough infections had long COVID symptoms up to six months after getting infected. Meanwhile, around 36% of unvaccinated veterans who were infected developed long COVID.
Lead author Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly noted that the vaccine reduced the risk of lingering respiratory or clotting problems in half, and other long COVID symptoms, such as shortness of breath or blood clots, by a “modest” 15%.”
Dr. Kristin Englund, an infectious disease expert who runs a center for long COVID patients at the Cleveland Clinic, encouraged everyone to continue masking and social distancing in addition to getting the vaccine “in order to prevent infections with COVID and thus long COVID,” since there is still no clear, available treatment for long COVID.
According to a separate report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 4 adults aged 65 and older experienced at least one potential long COVID symptom up to a year after their initial infection — compared with 1 in 5 younger adults.
The report, released on Tuesday, examined medical records of nearly 2 million U.S. adults from March 2020 to last November. Among these were 353,000 who contracted COVID-19. Patients were then monitored for about a year to observe if they developed any health conditions attributed to long COVID. Information on vaccination, race, and sex, was not included, however.
Those who were previously infected were much more likely to develop these conditions compared to other adults who were not infected, with the risk being highest for people aged 65 and older. The most commonly reported symptoms were breathing problems and muscle aches.
The study authors stressed the importance of routinely assessing all COVID patients “to reduce the incidence” of long COVID.
The study was published on Wednesday in Nature Medicine.