Covid-19 vaccine lowers risk of Long COVID in children: Study | Health

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Vaccination against the SARS-CoV-2 virus provides moderate protection against long COVID which presents persistent health problems in the months after the infection, a study has found.

A health worker administering anti-Covid vaccine to a boy during a special vaccination camp for children at the Chandigarh Press Club.(HT Photo/Ravi Kumar)

The finding, published in the journal Pediatrics, also shows that vaccination has a stronger effect in adolescents, who have a higher risk of developing long COVID than young children.

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While overall severity of COVID-19 has been lower in children than adults, the burden of long COVID has been difficult to accurately describe since the symptoms can vary widely and the exact ways the virus causes them are unknown, the researchers said.

Some symptoms include brain fog, dyspnea, gastrointestinal dysfunction, generalised pain and fatigue, while others are more acute, like inflammatory reaction or heart problems, they said.

“To date, no studies have assessed clinical data for large, diverse groups of children to address this important question,” said lead study author Hanieh Razzaghi from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), US.

“Using clinical data from across health care networks allowed us to have a large enough sample of patients to identify rare effects of the virus and its impact on children,” Razzagh said.

Data from 17 health systems were used to assess vaccine effectiveness against long COVID in two groups of patients between five and 11 years old and 12 and 17 years old, respectively, as well as the time period in which patients were impacted.

The vaccination rate was 56 per cent in the cohort of 1,037,936 (over 10 lakh) children.

The incidence of probable long COVID was 4.5 per cent among patients with COVID-19, though only 0.7 per cent of patients were clinically diagnosed with long COVID.

The study estimated effectiveness of the vaccine within 12 months of administration as 35.4 per cent against probable long COVID and 41.7 per cent against diagnosed long COVID.

The estimate was higher in adolescents compared with younger children, and higher at six months (61.4 per cent) but decreased to 10.6 per cent at 18 months.

Children who were vaccinated after recovering from COVID-19 also appeared to benefit, with vaccine effectiveness of 46 per cent against probable long COVID after a subsequent episode of COVID-19.

“This study provides us with important data showing the protective effects of the vaccine against long-haul COVID and suggests that this protection is mostly from preventing visible infections,” said senior study author Charles Bailey, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at CHOP.

“We hope this means that as vaccines are improved to be more effective against current strains of SARS-CoV-2, their protection against long COVID will get better, too,” Bailey added.

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