Impact of COVID-19 vaccination on the risk of developing long-COVID and on existing long-COVID symptoms: A systematic review

EClinicalMedicine. 2022 Aug 27;53:101624. doi: 10.1016/j.eclinm.2022.101624. eCollection 2022 Nov.


Background: Although COVID-19 vaccination decreases the risk of severe illness, it is unclear whether vaccine administration may impact the prevalence of long-COVID. The aim of this systematic review is to investigate the association between COVID-19 vaccination and long-COVID symptomatology.

Methods: MEDLINE, CINAHL, PubMed, EMBASE, and Web of Science databases, as well as medRxiv and bioRxiv preprint servers were searched up to June 20, 2022. Peer-reviewed studies or preprints monitoring multiple symptoms appearing after acute SARS-CoV-2 infection either before or after COVID-19 vaccination collected by personal, telephone or electronic interviews were included. The methodological quality of the studies was assessed using the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale.

Findings: From 2584 studies identified, 11 peer-reviewed studies and six preprints were included. The methodological quality of 82% (n=14/17) studies was high. Six studies (n=17,256,654 individuals) investigated the impact of vaccines before acute SARS-CoV-2 infection (vaccine-infection-long-COVID design). Overall, vaccination was associated with reduced risks or odds of long-COVID, with preliminary evidence suggesting that two doses are more effective than one dose. Eleven studies (n=36,736 COVID-19 survivors) investigated changes in long-COVID symptoms after vaccination (infection-long-COVID-vaccine design). Seven articles showed an improvement in long-COVID symptoms at least one dose post-vaccination, while four studies reported no change or worsening in long-COVID symptoms after vaccination.

Interpretation: Low level of evidence (grade III, case-controls, cohort studies) suggests that vaccination before SARS-CoV-2 infection could reduce the risk of subsequent long-COVID. The impact of vaccination in people with existing long-COVID symptoms is still controversial, with some data showing changes in symptoms and others did not. These assumptions are limited to those vaccines used in the studies.

Funding: The LONG-COVID-EXP-CM study supported by a grant of Comunidad de Madrid.

Keywords: Long-COVID symptoms; Post-COVID syndrome; SARS-CoV-2; Vaccine.