Roundup: Vaccines May Ease ‘Long Haul’ Symptoms; Pfizer-BioNTech Pending for Adolescents; and Latest on J&J Pause

Vaccines Reportedly Help Relieve ‘Long Haul’ COVID Symptoms, But More Studies Needed

The term “long haulers” refers to COVID-19 survivors who have experienced a range of symptoms for weeks or months after their initial infection. And many of them only had mild, or even no symptoms, during their initial bout with the coronavirus.

Recent media reports, surveys and at least on study indicate that some people with lingering COVID symptoms have found some relief after receiving one of the vaccines approved by regulators in both the U.S. and the U.K. A non-scientific survey of 450 people by Survivor Corps, a fast-growing advocacy group for COVID survivors, found that 171 people said their condition improved after vaccination, according to The Washington Post.

A recent study out of the United Kingdom, which has not yet been peer reviewed, provides additional hope for long haulers. Researchers focused on 66 hospitalized COVID-19 patients who had symptoms that lingered for up to 8 months. As part of the study, 44 of the patients were vaccinated and 22 were not.

Those who received a COVID-19 vaccine had a “small overall improvement in long COVID symptoms, with a decrease in worsening symptoms (5.6 percent vaccinated vs. 14.2 percent unvaccinated) and increase in symptom resolution (23.2 percent vaccinated vs 15.4 percent unvaccinated).”

Researchers concluded: “Individuals with prolonged COVID-19 symptoms should receive vaccinations as suggested by national guidance.”

U.S. public health officials say that more studies are needed to determine if there is a direct link between the vaccines and improvements in long haul symptoms.

Nearly one-third of people who contracted COVID-19 had lingering symptoms for a median of six months after initial symptoms appeared, according to a study published in February in JAMA Network Open. These COVID-19 patients initially experienced a wide range of symptoms — from asymptomatic to severe. The most common lingering symptoms: fatigue and loss of smell or taste. Commonly reported long COVID symptoms also include sleep disorders, GI (gastrointestinal) symptoms, anxiety and depression, and what some have been referring to as “brain fog,” or an inability or a difficulty in concentrating or focusing.

Pfizer-BioNTech Seek FDA Approval to Expand Vaccine Use to Adolescents Ages 12 to 15

Pfizer and BioNTech have requested that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) broaden its “emergency use authorization” to allow their COVID-19 vaccine to be used in adolescents, ages 12 to 15.

Pfizer-BioNTech, the co-makers of one of three U.S.-approved COVID-19 vaccines, had recently reported that a new clinical trial found their vaccine to produce “100 percent efficacy and robust antibody responses” in kids from 12- to 15-years-old. The trial enlisted 2,260 participants.

In the study, the vaccine “was well tolerated with side effects generally consistent with those observed in participants 16 to 25 years of age,” Pfizer-BioNTech said in a joint statement. “All participants in the trial will continue to be monitored for long-term protection and safety for an additional two years after their second dose.”

None of the study participants developed symptomatic COVID-19 infections or experience serious side effects, the companies stated in March. The vaccinated adolescents also produced, on average, higher levels of antibodies than older teens or young adults.

Pfizer-BioNTech also said they plan to request similar rulings by other regulatory authorities worldwide in coming days.

Latest from Public Health officials on Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Pause

All states have put on pause the use of Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot COVID-19 vaccine after recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The agencies urged the suspension after six reported U.S. cases of a “rare and severe” type of blood clot.

The recent six cases were in women ages 18 to 48, and symptoms occurred six to 13 days after vaccination, the U.S. agencies said. The six reported cases were among more than 7.5 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine administered nationwide. So far, the J&J vaccine makes up less than 5 percent of all vaccine doses administered in the U.S.

“As of April 13, 2021, no cases have been reported among the more than 180 million people who received the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines,” the CDC emphasizes, as public health officials urge the public to continue seeking the other two U.S. approved vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

The CDC states that public health officials “do not know enough yet to say if the (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine is related to or caused this health issue” of rare blood clots. “To be extra careful, CDC and FDA recommend that the vaccine not be given until we learn more,” the CDC states.

The pause on the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should continue until more is known about the rare vaccine side effect, a U.S. advisory committee decided Wednesday. The committee will meet again within a week to ten days to review more data that should become available.

As a precaution, the CDC says that if you’ve gotten the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the last three weeks, seek medical care urgently if you develop any of the following symptoms:

  • severe headache
  • backache
  • new neurologic symptoms
  • severe abdominal pain
  • shortness of breath
  • leg swelling
  • tiny red spots on the skin (petechiae)
  • new or easy bruising

If you received the vaccine more than a month ago, the risk of developing a blood clot is very low at this time, the agency said. “The CDC and FDA recommended this pause to communicate with and prepare the healthcare system to recognize and treat patients appropriately,” the CDC states.

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With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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