Your Covid-19 questions answered

Is it safe to get the vaccine if you have 'long Covid'?

29 July 2021 - 07:00
By cebelihle bhengu AND Cebelihle Bhengu
It's possible to get long Covid-19 even if vaccinated, but symptoms will be less severe, experts told TimesLIVE.
Image: RIAAN MARAIS It's possible to get long Covid-19 even if vaccinated, but symptoms will be less severe, experts told TimesLIVE.

There are no risks associated with vaccination for people who suffer from the after-effects of Covid-19, widely known in SA as “long Covid”,  Johannesburg-based general practitioners Drs Hillary Mukudu and Marlin McKay told TimesLIVE.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines long Covid as lingering symptoms after infection with Covid-19. They include a headache, loss of smell and persistent cough, forgetfulness and depression.

It says these symptoms can linger for weeks and even months. The organisation says the long-term effects of long Covid are still unknown. Among the burning questions are whether it's possible for sufferers to fully recover and the long-term impact on patients. 

Mukudu says long Covid sufferers can get vaccinated and some evidence has demonstrated the vaccine may improve symptoms of long Covid, though more in-depth research is still needed on this.

McKay added that the vaccine reduces the severity of the Covid-19 symptoms and long Covid. 

“The data shows that if you've had the vaccine and you subsequently get Covid-19, the risk of getting long Covid is lower. Long Covid is not the virus itself, it's the sequelae and complications of having had Covid-19. There is no problem with getting the vaccine while you have long Covid,” he said. 

McKay said people who suffer from the after-effects of Covid-19 cannot transmit it to others. 

“If you had Covid-19 and you've done your 10 days of isolation, you must wait 30 days for your vaccine. If you've had a more severe disease where you've been hospitalised, then you must wait 90 days to get the vaccine. It is safe and we do want patients with long Covid to get vaccinated to protect them against the next variant,” said McKay.

Long Covid and its toll on mental health 

The after-effects of Covid-19 take a toll on the mental wellness of sufferers, said McKay, largely because they are helpless against it. 

“Brain fog, memory loss, persistent headaches, cough and shortness of breath. In my practice, more than half of people who have recovered from Covid-19 mention either brain fog, persistent loss of taste and smell and shortness of breath.

“They ask if this is new Covid. You see patients come in with anxiety, depression and panic attacks,” he said. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US says among the main reasons long Covid patients suffer from mental health issues is that it is still difficult to distinguish between health conditions caused by post-Covid conditions and symptoms that occur for other reasons, which causes patients to suffer from mental health issues.