Last week, a preprint describing the patterns of long COVID in Western Australia dropped. Western Australia is a little different from many places in that the population had not been exposed in any meaningful way to COVID until the Omicron wave: due to quarantine protocols and other precautions, Omicron was the first exposure to COVID for virtually all of the study subjects. This study also broke down long COVID rates by the number of vaccinations, along with other factors. In addition, it looked at individual symptoms, but asked as well if people had to reduce or stop working. I’m going to focus on that, not because the other symptoms don’t matter, but because, in 2023 Year of Our Gritty in these United States, if you can’t work for an extended period of time, you’re screwed (America, Fuck Yeah!)–as a shorthand, I’ll refer to this as ‘debilitating long COVID.’
For me, the critical result is that, among people who had three or four doses, the percentage of infected people who had debilitating long COVID was 3.1% and 3.4%* respectively, while among those with 0-2 doses, the percentage of infected people who had debilitating long COVID was 6.3%.
While vaccination significantly lowered the chance of debilitating long COVID, vaccination did not lower the chance of debilitating long COVID to a trivial level, such as one-in-five thousand. At an individual-level repsonse, as I keep saying, you are not the weirdo if you are still trying to avoid (re)infection. Speaking of reinfection, we have studies that suggest reinfection either decreases or increases the risk of long COVID, so, unless you like vibes-based medical policy, do not assume that previous infection will protect you from long COVID.
At a policy level, it is long past time for journalists, including the science journalists, to ask policy makers, not academic researchers, but people with real power, what they think the chance of a vaccinated person getting debilitating long COVID is. If they try to brush you off with something like ‘well, vaccination protects you’, don’t let them get away with that bullshit: keep at them, and if they still don’t give you a number, then ask them how the hell they can claim ‘the pandemic is over’** when they do not have any idea what percentage of people will suffer long term disability.
Our health is at stake.
*People with four doses had a slightly higher risk of debilitating long COVID than those with three doses, but the sample size is small and it also could reflect that people with four doses are in higher risk groups.
**Leaving aside dull debates about pandemics versus endemics, most normies, when they hear ‘the pandemic is over’, they think there’s nothing to worry about, which clearly is not true.