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expert reaction to observational study on COVID-19 vaccination and long COVID symptoms

An observational study published in The BMJ looks at the trajectory of long COVID symptoms after COVID-19 vaccination.


Prof Penny Ward, Independent Pharmaceutical Physician, and Visiting Professor in Pharmaceutical Medicine at King’s College London, said:

“A lengthy article in the BMJ investigating the impact of receipt of SARS CoV2 vaccine after a diagnosis of COVID in subjects with persistent symptoms reassuringly suggests that Long Covid symptoms are likely to improve post vaccination, particularly following the second dose and particularly among subjects whose symptoms limit their usual activities. These data broadly support prescribers encouraging patients with ‘long covid’ to be vaccinated, or to complete the course of vaccination if they have not already done so. Both adenovirus vector and mRNA vaccinations types had similar associations of improved symptoms and it would be interesting to know what is observed with the protein subunit/adjuvented killed whole virus vaccines now coming forward. Given the frequency of ‘long covid’ symptoms following covid illness, these data further support the importance of vaccination as a means to reduce the burden of covid within the community.”


Dr Peter English, Retired Consultant in Communicable Disease Control, Former Editor of Vaccines in Practice, past Chair of the BMA Public Health Medicine Committee, said:

“Previous studies have suggested that vaccination against Covid-19 can reduce the incidence of Long Covid, and possibly also the symptoms of Long Covid in people who already suffer it.2

“This paper comes from a highly respected team,1 including staff at the Office of National Statistics (ONS). The ONS has been using large-scale surveys to collect data on Covid, including on Long Covid and vaccination uptake.3 4 This large-scale observational study provides further evidence suggestive of (but not proving) such effects.

“Long Covid seems likely to describe a number of different conditions following SARS-CoV-2 infection. It is likely that there are a variety of different causes for these conditions. (I have made a stab at drilling down into this in this blog.5) Even if vaccination can prevent or reduce the incidence or severity of some of these conditions, it may not prevent all of them.

“Long Covid will have very significant consequences for the health of the population, and consequently economic consequences (healthcare resource requirements; reduced ability to contribute to society through eg tax contributions, volunteering, informal caring, etc) for decades to come. Anything that can reduce the burden of disease from Long Covid at reasonable cost is, therefore, important and valuable.

“The large scale of this study means that we can be fairly confident about what has been observed; but it does not mean we can be sure what it means.

“The most obvious – and perhaps the most likely inference  – is that vaccination does, indeed, prevent at least some cases of Long Covid, and may even reduce the severity of symptoms or even “cure” Long Covid; but, while we can hope that vaccination will help, we cannot yet say this with any confidence.

“Nevertheless, I hope that this study will provide further confidence to people who have not yet taken up offers of vaccination (for themselves or their children).”


  1. Ayoubkhani D, Bermingham C, Pouwels KB, Glickman M, Nafilyan V, Zaccardi F, et al. Trajectory of long covid symptoms after covid-19 vaccination: community based cohort study [embargoed pre-print]. 2022.
  2. Harrison S, Walters B, Simmons Z, Cook M, Clark R. The effectiveness of vaccination against long COVID: A rapid evidence briefing. 2022; Updated Feb 2022; Accessed: (
  3. Office for National Statistics (ONS). Prevalence of ongoing symptoms following coronavirus (COVID-19) infection in the UK: 6 May 2022. Office for National Statistics (ONS) 2022; Updated 06 May 2022; Accessed: 2022 (06 May): (
  4. Munro M, Bermingham C, Nafilyan V, Morgan J, Gethings O, Office for National Statistics (ONS). Deaths involving COVID-19 by vaccination status, England: deaths occurring between 1 January 2021 and 31 March 2022. Office for National Statistics (ONS) 2022; Updated 16 May 2022; Accessed: 2022 (16 May): (
  5. English PMB. What are the long-term sequelae of Covid-19? Does vaccination reduce the risks? Peter English’s random musings [blog]. Selected Covid-19 vaccine Q&As 2021; Updated 02 May 2022; Accessed: 2022 (18 May): (



‘Trajectory of long covid symptoms after covid-19 vaccination: community based cohort study’ by Daniel Ayoubkhani et al. was published at 23:30 UK time on Wednesday 18 May.

DOI: 10.1136/bmj‑2021‑069676



All our previous output on this subject can be seen at this weblink:



Declared interests

Prof Penny Ward: “I am semi-retired, but I am owner/Director of PWG Consulting (Biopharma) Ltd a consulting firm advising companies on drug and device development. Between December 2016 and July 2019 I served as Chief Medical Officer of Virion Biotherapeutics Ltd, a company developing antiviral treatments for respiratory viral diseases. Previous employee of Roche, makers of tocilizumab (anti IL6 antibody) and CMO of Novimmune, makers of empalumab (anti IFN gamma antibody).”

Dr Peter English: Dr English is on the editorial board of Vaccines Today: an unpaid, voluntary, position. While he is also a member of the BMA’s Public Health Medicine Committee (and its chair until Oct 2020), this comment is made in a personal capacity. Dr English sometimes receives honoraria for acting as a consultant to various vaccine manufacturers, most recently to Seqirus.

No others received.


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