Can I get ‘long COVID’ if I’m infected after getting vaccinated?

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A registered nurse gives James Mullen the second dose of the coronavirus vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccination site at NYC Health + Hospitals Metropolitan, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, in New York. After months of coaxing people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 with incentives like museum tickets and transit passes, New York City is sweetening the pot by offering $100 to any city resident who gets a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine at a city-run site, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday, July 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

Can I get ‘long COVID’ if I’m infected after vaccination?

It’s unclear, but researchers are studying the chances of long-term symptoms developing in anyone who might get infected after vaccination.

The COVID-19 vaccines in use around the world are effective at preventing severe illness and death from the coronavirus, but some people do get infected after the shots. With such “breakthrough” cases, health experts say the vaccines should help lessen the severity of any illness people experience.

But researchers are also looking at whether those breakthrough cases could lead to long COVID-19, which is when people experience persistent, returning, or new symptoms a month or more after infection. The condition can develop after severe initial infections or even in those who initially had mild or no symptoms.

Some estimates indicate about 30% of unvaccinated COVID-19 patients develop long-term symptoms, including shortness of breath, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, insomnia, and brain fog. Similar symptoms can develop after other viral infections, too.

A small study from Israel published recently found apparent long COVID-19 in several health workers with breakthrough infections. They developed mild symptoms including cough, fatigue, and weakness that persisted for at least six weeks.

Larger studies are ongoing.

Researchers don’t know why symptoms linger but believe some symptoms reflect lung scarring or damage to other organs from severe initial infections. Another theory suggests that the virus may linger in the body and trigger an immune response that leads to the symptoms.

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