Breakthrough infections and long COVID

I’ve been fairly interested in long COVID because I have a good friend who has been struggling with a variety of weird and debilitating symptoms since she had COVID in March 2020.

So when people bring up the low death rates as part of their arguments for why we need to “learn to live with the virus” (meaning pretend it doesn’t exist and just take our chances because we are tired of the inconvenience of the outbreak mitigation efforts), I’m always asking about the 30% who report these crazy long COVID symptoms, even after mild or asymptomatic infections.

This article is interesting because it specifically asks about the association between long COVID and breakthrough infections.

Now it’s really important to stress that the COVID-19 vaccines are still highly effective at protecting people from getting really sick or dying, and are still quite good at keeping most people from even catching the virus or getting mildly ill.

But breakthrough infections can happen, especially with the delta variant. And it’s becoming increasingly clear that unvaccinated people can develop long COVID symptoms, even from mild cases.

“We’ve seen that with the infection itself in the unvaccinated individuals about 30% of those individuals continue to have these long-haul COVID symptoms,” says Dr. Avindra Nath, who is studying long COVID at the National Institutes of Health.

So the concern is whether vaccinated people who get infected may be at risk for long COVID too, Nath says.

Seems like the answer is along the lines of there are some cases of long COVID showing up in vaccinated individuals who had breakthrough infections, but it seems to be a lower percentage compared to unvaccinated people (maybe 5%), so it’s probably a low risk.


And then there are those of us who are either in or already on the far side of “middle aged” who are experiencing what we imagine might be the normal “aging” sorts of stuff - in terms of achy or tired joints and such. It was helpful to hear Hipps’ describe some of her experiences in this article - which still do stand out as quite distinct markers (presumably of the variant(s) now too) - i.e. an unmistakable loss of smell/taste as well as some of the other “burning” sensations she described that I had not yet heard of with COVID.

But given the range of severity all the way from hospitalization/death to … nothing, one really is left guessing unless they just continually get tested.

I have at least one relative in mind who has/is suffering from long COVID - and the cost to them physically and financially is very real.


“Pathophysiologically, it’s quite unlikely to get long COVID from a breakthrough infection…”

Since microthrombi are a hallmark of COVID, I don’t understand how that at all necessarily follows. Who knows where, in what capillaries they can lodge and what long term or irreversible damage to blood-starved cells can occur, particularly nerve cells in the brain.

One of my colleagues now has to take oxygen regularly because of COVID-19. :frowning:

Good article. Quotable:

A wider pandemic is also a weirder pandemic.

And it points out the difference between numerator and denominator. Imagine that! :slightly_smiling_face:

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“If you’re trying to decide on getting vaccinated, you don’t want to look at the percentage of sick people who were vaccinated,” McGowan wrote. “You want to look at the percentage of people who were vaccinated and got sick.”

Yes! I tried to explain that on Facebook the other day with a graphic @pevaquark had posted. People are bad at understanding what percentages mean.


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