Scientists are investigating a new condition believed to be caused by Covid vaccination – called ‘Long Vax’.
Experts from Harvard and Yale are studying the debilitating array of problems that appear hours, days or weeks after getting an injection, but can persist for months.
Experts emphasize that the condition is extremely rare, relatively mild compared to severe Covid and that the benefits of vaccination likely outweigh the risks. For example, vaccination significantly reduces the risk of ‘Long Covid’.
Patients with the so-called Long Vax appear to have symptoms similar to those of Long Covid, including headaches, intense fatigue, and abnormal heart rate and blood pressure. However, some symptoms appear to be unique to the vaccine-caused condition, such as tingling, burning pain, and circulatory problems.
The actual number of people affected is not yet known, but Dr. Harlan Krumholz, a cardiologist at Yale, leads a survey of about 2,000 people into the issue.
Dr. Krumholz admits it is controversial because the Covid vaccines have saved millions of lives. And studies show that the jabs also lower the risk of long-term Covid by about a third, making the issue even more nuanced.
By comparison, long Covid is relatively common, with one in eight adults who become infected with the virus experiencing symptoms months after the acute illness has subsided, the CDC said.
The huge benefit of Covid vaccination and the toxic anti-vax movement has made scientists uncomfortable speaking out about Long Vax, according to Dr. Krumholz, who involves himself in this.
Dr. Harlan Krumholz, a cardiologist at Yale University who is leading a study on the issue of about 2,000 people, admits it is controversial because the Covid vaccines have saved millions of lives. The jabs also reduce the risk of long-term covid by about a third, according to some studies, making the issue even more controversial
He said he feared any investigations into the matter would be seized upon by conspiracy theorists. But after observing an increasing number of cases of Long Vax, he said: “I’m convinced something is going on [with these side effects].
“It’s my duty, if I’m really a scientist, to keep an open mind and learn if there’s anything that can be done.”
Dr. Anne Louise Oaklander, a neurologist and researcher at Harvard Medical School, echoed his comments.
She said Science: ‘You see one or two patients [with possible Long Vax] and you wonder if it’s a coincidence. But by the time you’ve seen 10, 20? Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.’
Long Covid is thought to be caused by stubborn bits of the Covid virus lurking in the body or an overreactive immune system unable to reset itself.
Patients with the condition appear to suffer from symptoms similar to ‘Long Covid’ – including persistent headaches, intense fatigue and abnormal heart rate and blood pressure
In Long Vax, researchers suggest it’s caused by a similar immune system overreaction to the Covid spike protein the vaccine uses to generate antibodies.
One idea is that some people produce a second round of antibodies that then mistakenly attack the healthy cells.
The antibodies can also bind to ACE2, a receptor that helps regulate blood pressure and heart rate, but is also used by Covid to enter the body.
If the antibodies get in the way of ACE2 signaling, it can lead to faster heart rate and fluctuating blood pressure.
The researchers believe it is different from Long Covid “based on the timing of the onset of symptoms,” Dr Krumholz told DailyMail.com.
He said it is difficult to compare the prevalence of Long Vax to that of Long Covid “as studies provide conflicting information.”
About a year ago, Dr. Krumholz and Dr. Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at Yale, began enrolling vaccinated and unvaccinated patients in a new study called LISTEN, which stands for Listen to Immune, Symptom and Treatment Experiences Now.
The goal of the study is “to understand the symptoms of Long Covid and the associated immune responses.”
The study also includes Long Covid patients. It aims to look at participants’ symptoms in addition to their immune cell patterns to see how people’s immune systems change after vaccination.
Tom Shimabukuro, of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told a government advisory committee in January that Long Vax and other symptoms that develop after vaccination is a “challenging outcome to monitor.”
Researchers are increasingly discovering overlaps with other medical conditions.
One is small fiber neuropathy, in which nerve damage can cause tingling, burning pain, and circulatory problems.
The second is postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), which is sometimes caused by symptoms of small fiber neuropathy.
It causes muscle weakness, heart rate and blood pressure fluctuations, fatigue and brain fog.
Patients with symptoms after a Covid shot can show aspects of both conditions even if they don’t reach the diagnostic threshold, meaning milder cases can slip under the radar.
More than 24 patients have turned up with details of POTS or small fiber neuropathy following a Covid injection, regardless of manufacturer.
Symptoms can appear hours, days or weeks after vaccination and are difficult to study.
While researchers on the ground are taking Long Vax more seriously, U.S. and European regulators said they’ve looked for a link between Covid injections and small fiber neuropathy, or POTS, but found nothing.
Dr. Vinay Prasad, hematologist-oncologist and professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of California San Francisco, said on Twitter“I think “Covid vaccine caused long covid” should be subject to the same scientific criticism and skepticism as autism caused by MMR injections.
Bizarre that this article has no solid data to support this speculation. It’s strange what side effects of vaccines it’s okay to speculate about.’
Peter Marks, director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, which oversees vaccines, said: “We can’t rule out rare cases. If a provider has someone in front of them, they may want to take the concept seriously [of] a side effect of a vaccine.’
But Dr Marks also stressed that the benefits of vaccines far outweigh the risks.
In March, German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said that, while rare, long Covid-like symptoms after an injection are a real phenomenon, and promised funding for studies.
About 13.3 percent of people infected with Covid get Long Covid.
Getting vaccinated reduces the risk of Lung Covid by 35 percent, according to one analysis from 2022.
An analysis published in the journal Antimicrobial Stewardship & Healthcare Epidemiology in December 2022 showed that people who had a single dose of the Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, or Johnson & Johnson vaccine before testing positive for Covid had a 35 percent had a lower risk of developing Long Covid compared to unvaccinated people who got Covid.
The Covid vaccines have been studied extensively and are perhaps the most studied vaccines in human history in terms of safety. There are only very rare examples of long-term side effects.