COVID-19 vaccines found effective in reducing long COVID symptoms

11 January 2024

A recent study has revealed the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines in preventing long COVID.

While vaccines have proved effective to prevent severe COVID-19, their impact to prevent long-term symptoms have not yet been fully understood. But a research team at NDORMS (Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology, and Musculoskeletal Sciences), University of Oxford has found that vaccination against COVID-19 consistently reduced the risk of long COVID symptoms.

Dani Prieto-Alhambra, Professor of Pharmaco- and device epidemiology, who led the study explained: ‘Vaccines against COVID-19 were rapidly developed to tackle the pandemic and to date 8 vaccines have received authorisation from international regulators including EMA and MHRA, with billions of doses delivered to date. These 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, and obtained funding from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) to conduct a study to research this.’

Published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine the study conducted extensive analyses using primary care electronic health records from the UK, Spain, and Estonia. The team examined data from more than 20 million vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals and identified cases of long COVID based on specific criteria defined by the WHO (World Health Organisation). The study focused on adults who were registered for at least 180 days in each respective country.
Across the different cohorts analysed, the researchers observed a significant decrease in the occurrence of long COVID among vaccinated individuals compared to those who were unvaccinated.

Dr Annika Jodicke, Senior Pharmacoepidemiologist and study co-lead, said: ‘We were able to demonstrate how both 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).’

Dr Marti Catala, Senior Data Scientist and lead author of the manuscript, added: ‘Thanks to our international collaborations, we replicated our analyses using data from Spain and Estonia. Our findings were consistent across the 3 countries and many different populations, emphasising the critical role that vaccination plays in protecting individuals from the long-term consequences of COVID-19.’

Funded by the NIHR through a specific call to research long COVID prevention and treatment, and with partial support from the NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre (BRC), the study offers valuable insights to inform public health strategies and vaccination campaigns worldwide.

NOTES TO EDITORS

Contacts
Josie Eade, Communications Officer 

Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences, University of Oxford
Tel: 07711 387215
Email: josie.eade@ndorms.ox.ac.uk; communications@ndorms.ox.ac.uk

About the Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences (NDORMS)
The Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences (NDORMS) is a multi-disciplinary department focusing on discovering the causes of musculoskeletal and inflammatory conditions to deliver excellent and innovative care that improves people’s quality of life. The largest European academic department in its field, NDORMS is part of the Medical Sciences Division of the University of Oxford, and is a rapidly growing community of more than 500 orthopaedic surgeons, rheumatologists and scientists all working in the field of musculoskeletal disorders.

The research work of the department takes place in several locations across the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre, namely the Botnar Institute for Musculoskeletal Sciences, the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology, and the Kadoorie Centre. The co-location with NHS services puts the department in an excellent position with basic researchers working alongside clinicians. This substantially improves research capacity, improving access for researchers to patients, and facilitating the interaction between clinicians and scientists that is essential for successful medical research.

About the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Oxford Biomedical Research Centre (BRC)
The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Oxford Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) is based at the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and run in partnership with the University of Oxford.

The mission of the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) is to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. We do this by:

  • funding high quality, timely research that benefits the NHS, public health and social care;
  • investing in world-class expertise, facilities and a skilled delivery workforce to translate discoveries into improved treatments and services;
  • partnering with patients, service users, carers and communities, improving the relevance, quality and impact of our research;
  • attracting, training and supporting the best researchers to tackle complex health and social care challenges;
  • collaborating with other public funders, charities and industry to help shape a cohesive and globally competitive research system;
  • funding applied global health research and training to meet the needs of the poorest people in low- and middle-income countries.

NIHR is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. Its work in low- and middle-income countries is principally funded through UK Aid from the UK government.

About the University of Oxford
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