Doctors say COVID-19 vaccine is safe for ‘long haulers’ despite lack of hard data

COVID-19 Vaccine

DENVER (KDVR) — Persisting symptoms in recovered COVID-19 patients continue to baffle doctors nearly a year after some of the affected people first became sick.

“I had loss of smell and taste, constricted lungs, lung pain, hand numbness, brain fog — I still have brain fog. It was the worst sickness I’ve ever had in my life,” said Brittney Hansen, a COVID-19 long-hauler from Highlands Ranch.

Hansen is still fighting lingering symptoms like distorted taste and smell, and shortness of breath. She says she’s slowly making progress and worries the COVID-19 vaccine could set her back in her recovery.

“I am just worried about the reaction making symptoms worse, maybe re-triggering everything,” said Hansen.

Despite a lack of hard data on the effects of the vaccine on long haulers, Dr. Anuj Mehta, professor of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Denver Health, says there’s no reason to believe it isn’t safe for them.

“The problem with COVID long-haulers is we really don’t understand the mechanism of their symptoms. We don’t think it’s related to the fact that they may have ongoing virus in their body since most of them have totally cleared the virus. And we don’t necessarily know if it’s related to a kind of antibody response,” said Mehta.

Mehta says he understands choosing to receive the vaccine may be a difficult decision for those who are still fighting symptoms months after their onset.

“That being said, people who are long-haulers are at risk for re-infection. So if people are eligible and they think it’s the right decision for themselves, I think that the vaccine is still safe and effective,” said Mehta.

Hansen believes she will get the vaccine when it’s her turn in line.

“It just impacts you so differently than any other sickness I’ve had so it makes me nervous, but I will take it if it means life can go back to more normal,” said Hansen.

Mehta expects data pertaining to COVID long-haulers and the vaccine will become clearer as more people are vaccinated.

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