SALT LAKE CITY — When COVID-19 vaccine appointments opened for all Utahns over the age of 16, Andrew Stott said he was hesitant to make an appointment.
As a COVID long-hauler, Stott was worried what the vaccine could do.
“I was nervous about getting the vaccine and not knowing if I would have a really hard time,” he said.
After a conversation with his doctor, he decided to get the vaccine. He had his second dose a few weeks ago.
Something unexpected happened after the second dose, Stott said. He started feeling better.
“Yeah, actually I was a little skeptical of that. The first few times I heard that, I was like, 'I don’t think that’s how a vaccine works,'” he said of other people reporting improvements.
The worst symptom Stott experienced is chronic fatigue. That has gone away after the vaccine, he said.
“I have the energy to get off the couch and play with my 6-year-old son whenever he wants to, and that’s something that I haven’t felt since last summer,” he said.
Yale researchers are beginning to study the idea that the COVID-19 vaccine may be helping some long-haulers.
So far, about 30 to 40 percent of long-haulers in the preliminary data from Yale Medicine reported improvements to their symptoms after the vaccine. Some people reported no changes, and about 10 to 15 percent reported feeling worse. Akiko Iwasaki, a professor of immunobiology at Yale School of Medicine, is one of the leaders of the study.
“That’s exciting news, and I want to learn more about why that’s happening. There are currently no treatments for long-haulers, so any insight would be helpful,” she said in a news release about the study.
Dr. Jeanette Brown is the medical director heading up the Post-COVID Clinic, which will be opening in June through the University of Utah Health.
Some patients have told Dr. Brown they are feeling better after the vaccine, while some report worse symptoms and some no change, she said.
There is still so much to learn and understand about why some long-haulers may be feeling better after the vaccine, and at this point there is not enough data to prove anything. That is why there are several studies going on about this, like the one at Yale Medicine.
“Because for COVID long-haulers, symptoms tend to come and go and change anyway — you would need kind of a long term follow up to know that was the reason why they were getting better, or, say, getting worse, for example,” Brown said.
Brown and other researchers at U of U Health are conducting several studies about "long COVID." Some of the most common symptoms she sees are people with exercise intolerance and chronic fatigue.
While not all of Stott’s symptoms have gone away, he said this is giving him some hope.
"I think most of my remaining issues, hopefully they will either find therapies for things for my joint pain or my respiratory issues. It just gives me hope that the rest of the stuff will go away over time as well,” he said.
If you are a COVID long-hauler and live in Utah, you can join this Facebook group.