COVID-19 vaccines effective in reducing long COVID symptoms

A new study funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) has found that vaccination against COVID-19 consistently reduced the risk of long COVID symptoms.

Researchers from the University of Oxford and Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology, and Musculoskeletal Sciences (NDORMS) examined data from more than 20 million people. The individuals came from the UK, Spain and Estonia. Some had been vaccinated and others had not.

People were defined as having long COVID if they had:

  • experienced at least one of 25 WHO-listed symptoms
  • experienced the symptoms between 90 and 365 days after the date of a positive PCR test or clinical diagnosis of COVID-19
  • no history of that symptom 180 days before they were infected with COVID-19.

The research team observed a significant decrease in the occurrence of long COVID among vaccinated individuals. This was in comparison to those who were unvaccinated. The findings were consistent across all three European countries and four databases, covering different healthcare settings and national healthcare policies.

The research has been published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine. The team was supported by the NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre (BRC).

Dani Prieto-Alhambra, Professor of Pharmaco- and Device Epidemiology at NDORMS and an NIHR Senior Research Investigator, led the study. He said: “Vaccines proved to be highly effective in preventing severe COVID-19 but it’s known that around 1 in 10 people suffer from persistent symptoms, what we call long COVID. We wanted to assess if COVID vaccines had any impact on long COVID symptoms.”

Dr Annika Jodicke, Senior Pharmacoepidemiologist and study co-lead, said: “We were able to demonstrate how the vaccines prevented the development of persistent COVID symptoms. Additionally, we compared different vaccinations and found that the BNT162b2 vaccine (BioNTech/Pfizer) provided better protection against long COVID compared to the ChAdOx1 vaccine (Oxford/AstraZeneca).”

The study was funded by the NIHR through a call to research long COVID prevention and treatment. The NIHR awarded £19.6m to 15 projects across England in 2021 to explore causes of long COVID, symptoms and treatments.


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