Association between virus variants, vaccination, previous infections, and post-COVID-19 risk

Int J Infect Dis. 2023 Nov:136:14-21. doi: 10.1016/j.ijid.2023.08.019. Epub 2023 Aug 25.


Objectives: The SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant has spread rapidly and has been the dominant variant since 2022. The course of acute infection, in a vaccinated population, with Omicron is milder compared with earlier variants. However, little is known about how the occurrence of long-term symptoms after Omicron infection compared with other variants is modulated by previous infections and/or vaccinations.

Methods: Participants of the DigiHero study provided information about their SARS-CoV-2 infections, vaccinations, and symptoms 12 or more weeks after infection (post-COVID-19 condition - PCC).

Results: Participants infected with wildtype SARS-CoV-2 had the highest PCC risk (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 6.44, 95% confidence interval (CI): 5.49; 7.56), followed by participants infected with Alpha and Delta compared with the reference group (individuals infected with Omicron having received three or more vaccinations). Among those infected with a specific variant, the number of preceding vaccinations was not associated with a risk reduction for PCC, whereas previous infection was strongly associated with a lower PCC risk (aOR 0.14, 95% CI 0.07; 0.25).

Conclusions: While infection with Omicron is less likely to result in PCC compared with previous variants, lack of protection by vaccination suggests a substantial challenge for the healthcare system during the early endemic period. In the midterm, the protective effects of previous infections can reduce the burden of PCC.

Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; SARS-CoV-2 variants; Vaccination.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • COVID-19* / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Odds Ratio
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Vaccination

Supplementary concepts

  • SARS-CoV-2 variants