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Hope for ‘long-haulers’: COVID vaccines could hold the key to relief for patients who suffer months of symptoms

Some patients have received the vaccine and had symptoms lessen or completely disappear, but not enough data has been provided to definitively link the two.

TAMPA, Fla — For some who end up contracting COVID-19, the effects of the virus don't disappear once they test negative. These "long haulers," as they are called, can have symptoms for weeks or months after testing negative. 

The symptoms range from shortness of breath to migraines, muscle weakness, stomach issues, brain fog, and more. There is no cure for long-haulers, but now, there could be good news. Early data is showing the mRNA vaccines could provide relief of the symptoms.

Exciting news for people like Rachel Taback who was first diagnosed with COVID-19 in June of 2020. She had a nearly four-month intensive battle with the virus. 

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"I spent nights talking to God, just writing notes to him. I wrote notes to my son, notes to my fiancé, my parents. Just, this is the part that always makes it hard, but I just really didn't think I was gonna wake up the next morning. I'd be scared to go to sleep," said Taback.

To this day, she deals with symptoms. 

"Migraines, stomach issues. Those are the two that have really, really lingered. I mean, like I said, I tested negative in September, and I'm still dealing with that today," said Taback. 

But now, people like her have help.

"But some, I would say, convergent observations of patients who really felt better after vaccine administration. And we've really felt that the COVID-19, long COVID-19, was improved by vaccine," explained Dr. Christian Brèchot, Senior Associate Dean for Research in Global Affairs at USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, associate vice president for International Partnerships and Innovation at USF, and professor in the department of internal medicine at USF Health.

A number of long-haulers have seen symptoms diminish or completely disappear after getting the two doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. News that could help A LOT of people.

"As many as 30% of those patients who have experience COVID-19 might be, might suffer of what we call long COVID-19," said Dr. Christian Brèchot. And there is no cure for those millions of people. 

"So this is why obviously, the vaccine would be an extraordinary, appealing solution."

At this point, there is not enough data yet to prove the vaccine helps long haulers.  

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"Numbers are still low. More studies and on a larger number of patients, however, it's very provocative and we must pay attention to these," said Dr. Brèchot.

There could be more news soon. The NIH has opened up a research program for long haulers, and there is hope that some of the funds and research will go towards examining the link between the vaccine and helping long haulers.

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