The Political Importance of Long COVID

Even Ezekiel Emanuel, in this interview with Andy Slavitt, gets it (boldface mine):

The real, I think, unknown and the thing which motivates I think a big portion of the population is long COVID. We don’t know enough about long COVID. We don’t know if you have two shots or three shots, what are your chances of getting long COVID? How severe is it? And I think if we had an answer to those questions and it turned out, you know, you get three shots, your chance of dying is one in 30-35,000 and your chance of long COVID is 1 in 10-12,000, then you know, COVID would be kind of like flu. We would have to protect the vulnerable, but most of us could around without real worry. The problem is we don’t know the long COVID thing. And when I go around, I hear from a lot of people that’s what they’re obsessed by because it’s so frightening. Brain fog, fatigue, shortness of breath on a chronic basis, not being able to get out of bed. No one wants to risk that. That ruins your life. But if you knew, eh, that’s not going to really happen, I think people would say alright, given omicron, given three shots, the low risks of serious illness and complication, I’m willing to live a normal life, take that mask off. And I do think that would make a big difference.

[In response to a different question by Slavitt]: That would make a very serious problem I think going forward because I think people wouldn’t know how to live like that. If you said, look your chances are one in twenty of getting long COVID even with three shots, people would like… I’m not taking those odds of brain fog, that’s just like… that sounds too much like Russian roulette for I think a lot of people. And I think this is where we’re at, we simply don’t know the answer to that question. And our group said that is a top priority question, it’s an emergency to get the answer to that question, and the NIH has to put the pedal to the metal to get that answer. And it shouldn’t be hard because we do have probably several million people at least who have long COVID.

For me, it was obvious since mid-2020, that long COVID was a serious problem. On a personal level, even pre-vaccine, I wasn’t really worried about death or hospitalization, but I was (and still am) worried about long COVID. As Emanuel put it, “That ruins your life.”

Where I disagree with Emanuel is, while we might not definitively know the answer, we have reasonable evidence to date to think that one to two percent of people who have received two doses* come down with either chronic fatigue or mental disability (it’s likely double that for unvaccinated people, so get your damn shots). That’s not definite, but it seems like a reasonable working prior, though some would argue for a higher percentage than that.

Instead of acting on that preliminary assumption, our political betters are assuming long COVID in vaccinated people approaches zero.

From a political perspective, since it seems like the Biden Administration has given up on trying to prevent infection, this could mean millions of disabled people–people, who if we took limiting infection more seriously, might not become disabled.

This could blow up politically. In a functional political system, it would blow up politically. How this ends well without serious attempts to limit spread–something the U.S. has abandoned–escapes me.

In unrelated news, in D.C., COVID cases increased 26 percent in the last week. This is fine.

*No idea if there’s a difference between two and three doses. Hopefully, there is.

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5 Responses to The Political Importance of Long COVID

  1. MJ Lauer says:

    Is the flu comparison apples to apples? Are the vaccinated + boosted for COVID rates being compared to the unvaccinated flu rates? I have not seen a breakdown that shows:
    1. Unvaccinated flu death/hospitalization rates
    2. Vaccinated flu death/hospitalization rates
    3. Unvaccinated COVID death/hospitalization rates
    4. Various levels of COVID vaccinated (from one shot to double boosted) death/hospitalization rates

    Somebody out there should have have that data and has asked that same question. Additionally, there isn’t something called “Long Flu” so that is a new element that has to be weighed by those of us trying to do personal risk assessments aka The Weirdos Still Wearing Masks.

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