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Frequently Asked Questions

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect our daily lives, it’s important to be knowledgeable about the tools, such as vaccines, boosters and masks, that can help us to protect ourselves. You can check this page for updates and science-based answers to frequently asked vaccine questions.

VACCINE FAQs

To date, two vaccines have been granted full approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration–the Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty® COVID-19 vaccine that received full approval for individuals 16 and older on August 23, 2021, and Moderna’s Spikevax COVID-19 vaccine that received full approval for individuals 18 and older on January 31, 2022.  The FDA has also given emergency approval authorization (EUA) to the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson (J&J) for individuals 18 and over and the Pfizer vaccine for children over 5.

While all of these vaccines were shown to be safe and effective through clinical trials, it’s natural to have questions about them. Below you’ll find information on how the vaccines were approved, how safe they are, booster shots and how vaccines have performed against the original coronavirus and several variants.

How do I know the COVID-19 vaccines are safe?

All approved COVID-19 vaccines (J&J, Moderna, Pfizer) went through all the required stages of clinical testing needed to prove two things: that they’re safe and work to protect against COVID-19.

Real-world data supports this. Hundreds of millions of doses have been administered in the United States and billions have been administered around the world. Very few serious reactions have been reported.

Four conditions have occurred in vaccinated people. Some individuals developed anaphylaxis (a strong allergic reaction). Others developed myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle). Some people who received the J&J vaccine have reported a certain type of blood clot called thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) or Guillain Barré Syndrome, a condition in which the immune system attacks the nerves.

You can keep up with the latest data on these events on the CDC’s website. But keep in mind that of the millions of people who were vaccinated, only a small percentage have developed any of these conditions. Out of every one million vaccinated people, about five people went into anaphylaxis. The CDC continues to monitor cases of myocarditis and to date, 2,323 preliminary reports have been registered but most people responded well to medicine and felt better quickly, per the CDC. Of the 18.5 million J&J vaccines administered, 60 developed TTS and 310 reported Guillain Barré as of March 24, 2022.

The risk of experiencing these complications is extremely low. Meanwhile, there are serious risks associated with COVID-19, including severe illness or hospitalization.

The CDC takes safety very seriously and continues to monitor these vaccines calling the effort “the most intense safety monitoring” in U.S. history.

Do vaccines protect people in the real world?

Yes! One especially notable study was released in September 2021 by the CDC. The study followed 3,689 people between March and August 2021. The results showed that the Moderna vaccine was 93 percent effective against hospitalization, the Pfizer vaccine was 88 percent effective against hospitalization and the J&J vaccine was 71 percent effective against hospitalization. This study evaluated the efficacy against the original coronavirus variant.

Vaccines are still protective against severe COVID-19 caused by the Omicron variant now dominant in the United States, but a booster shot is needed to ensure protection. One study released in March 2022 followed patients from 21 U.S. medical centers between March 2021 and January 2022. During the Omicron surge, the study found that people who received three mRNA shots (a course of Pfizer or Moderna, plus a booster) were 94 percent less likely to die from COVID-19.

Do I need a booster shot if I am already vaccinated?

The original coronavirus vaccines still protect against severe illness and death, but the CDC has now authorized booster shots for all adults. Given the contagious nature of Omicron, now the dominant variant in the US, boosters are essential to provide sufficient protection.

A CDC study released in January 2022 shows just how important this is. One study looked at the rate of severe and hospital-grade COVID cases in eight states, across over 300,000 people. Getting a third mRNA vaccine was 90 percent effective in preventing hospitalizations when Omicron was dominant. Data from 21 U.S. medical centers collected between March 2021 and January 2022 found that people who had received three mRNA shots were 94 percent less likely to die when infected with Omicron.

CDC research has shown that booster shots are safe. It’s normal to feel fatigue, or head and muscle aches after a booster, but these symptoms are less common after a booster than after a second mRNA shot, a February 2022 CDC study suggests.

As of late March, the CDC has made the second booster shots available to adults over 50 and certain immunocompromised people who have already completed their primary vaccine series, and received a booster shot 4 months ago. Adults of any age who received a J&J primary vaccine and booster may receive a booster shot. In that case, the CDC recommends opting for an mRNA booster shot.

If I Received the Pfizer or Moderna Vaccine, Am I Eligible For a Booster Shot?

If you are older than 18 and received the second Pfizer or Moderna shot five or more months ago you can now receive a booster shot according to the latest CDC guidance. Adolescents aged 12 through 17 may receive a booster made by Pfizer.

You can receive a booster shot made by J&J, Moderna or Pfizer, regardless of which shot you had already received.

If I Received the J&J Vaccine, Am I Eligible For a Booster Shot?

If you are 18 and older and received the J&J shot two or more months ago, you are eligible to receive a booster shot made by J&J, Moderna or Pfizer. The CDC recommends that people who received a J&J original shot opt for mRNA booster shots in the future, based on research suggesting that mRNA shots provide more robust protection.

Can You Mix and Match Booster Shots?

Adults 18 and older may receive a booster shot made by any manufacturer. Teens aged 12 through 17 are only eligible for booster shots made by Pfizer.

For example, if you first received a Moderna vaccine and are eligible for a booster, you can receive a booster shot made by Pfizer or J&J. You would receive that booster at least five months after getting your second dose.

Here’s another example. If you received a J&J vaccine and are eligible for a booster, you can receive one made by either Pfizer or Moderna. You would receive your booster two months after your first shot.

The CDC has been studying the safety of booster shots. A February 2022 study evaluating 721,562 adult booster shot recipients found that the most common side effects were fever and pain–common reactions to vaccination. Those who got booster shots different from their original shots were more likely to report side effects compared to people who stuck with the same brand. But the CDC still notes that mixing and matching boosters is safe.

If I Already Had a COVID-19 Breakthrough Infection, Do I Need to Get a Booster Shot?

If you have confirmed with a PCR test that you have contracted COVID-19, you should wait until your symptoms resolve and you’ve ended your isolation period to go get a booster shot.

After that, though, it is critical to restore protection with a booster shot, as scientists are unsure how long natural protection might last. Vaccines, generally, offer better protection and may help fend off future infections.

Is It Safe to Mix and Match Booster Shots?

Several studies speak to the safety of booster shots. The first followed over 700,000 people 18 and older who had received a booster shot between September 2021 and February 2022 and reported their side effects to the CDC. Ninety-two percent of those reports were not deemed serious. Medical care was rarely sought after receiving a booster shot.

The most common side effects were headache, fever, and pain. These symptoms were slightly more common among people who received a different booster shot from the shot they already received. But side effects are more likely to occur after the second dose of a vaccine, compared to after administration of the booster.

That said, the CDC recommends that you opt for an mRNA vaccine as a booster shot, as opposed to the J&J.

What about the variants? Does the vaccine protect against them too?

The Omicron variant and its various subtypes are the dominant form of SARS-CoV-2 in the U.S. as of March 2022.

Protection Against Omicron

There is evidence that existing two-dose vaccine regimens are less effective against Omicron. However, booster shots can help restore protection. A January 2022 study of over 300,000 people showed that an mRNA booster shot was 90 percent effective against hospitalization with Omicron.

More recent research contains more good news. A March 2022 study from 21 U.S. medical centers found that a three-dose mRNA vaccine regimen could reduce the chances of ventilation (an extreme form of care) of death from Omicron by 94 percent.

While protection is still high, it can wane over time. A CDC study published in February 2022 showed that, two months after the first shot, vaccines were 90 percent protective against hospitalization. Four months after the third shot, that protection dropped to 78 percent. (This data was collected during the Omicron wave in early 2022.) The best course of action, per the CDC, is to get vaccinated and get your booster if you are eligible.

Protection Against BA.2 (Omicron subvariant)

The Omicron subvariant BA.2 has just overtaken Omicron as the dominant variant in the US (accounting for over 54 percent of cases, per CDC data). This variant appears to be more contagious than the original omicron variant, but it also causes less severe disease than previous forms of SARS-CoV-2, like the Delta variant.

Early research suggests that vaccines still fare well against BA.2. A preprint study from the UK released in March 2022 found that one week after a booster shot was received, the vaccine was 71 percent effective against symptomatic disease from Omicron and 72 percent effective against symptomatic disease from the BA.2 subvariant.

This protection declined over time, but at the moment, the authors concluded that vaccines respond similarly to Omicron and BA.2. The UK Health Security Agency’s most recent March report also notes that vaccine effectiveness is similar between Omicron and BA.2.

Should I get a vaccine if I’ve already had COVID-19?

The short answer is yes.

While you may have COVID-19 antibodies (proteins that bind to the virus and tell the body to vanquish it) in your body after you recover, we don’t know how long immunity gained from natural infection lasts.

Other studies suggest as many as one-third of mild COVID-19 cases don’t leave behind protective antibodies. One CDC study from September 2021 followed 72 people, most of whom had mild cases. About 36 percent of them did not develop antibodies.

It’s possible more severe cases of COVID-19 may leave behind more antibodies, but these cases are very risky. Even if the case doesn’t lead to hospitalization or death, there could be long-term consequences from the condition.

The most reliable way to train your immune system to fight COVID-19 is to get vaccinated, rather than risking a so-called “natural infection.” You don’t need to risk short-term or long-term consequences of the virus to protect yourself.

Getting sick with one variant also doesn’t guarantee protection from another. Some early research suggests that Omicron is more likely to cause re-infections than Delta is.

There’s one more reason to get vaccinated: You can help protect others by reducing your chances of getting hospitalized. The Omicron variant and BA.2 are more contagious than the original coronavirus. This means it is even more critical to get vaccinated and boosted, to keep hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.

If I already got one Pfizer/Moderna shot, why do I need to get the second one?

Real-world research has shown that immunity is improved after two shots. For instance, the effectiveness of one Pfizer or Moderna vaccine against the original coronavirus was 64 percent in a study of U.S. healthcare workers done by the CDC. But two shots raised the efficacy to around 94 percent in that study.

In light of new variants such as Omicron, it’s even more important to get both doses of your COVID-19 shot, as well as a booster.

Should I get the vaccine if I’m pregnant or want to become pregnant?

You should talk to your doctor if you are pregnant and are worried about getting a COVID-19 vaccine. However, the CDC now strongly recommends pregnant people (or those who want to become pregnant) get the COVID-19 vaccine.

One study published in the New England Journal of Medicine followed over 35,000 pregnant women who got vaccinated. The study found no signs that the vaccine was linked to any complications. A pre-print study released in August shows that mRNA vaccines were also not linked to an increased risk of miscarriage.

Getting vaccinated while pregnant can even help protect newborn children from COVID-19. A CDC study released in February 2022 analyzed data from 20 pediatric hospitals in the U.S. Vaccination among pregnant mothers was linked with a 60 percent reduction in the risk of infants (younger than 6 months old) being hospitalized with COVID-19.

Meanwhile, evidence also shows that pregnant women who get COVID-19 are at higher risk of getting very sick from the virus itself compared to non-pregnant women of the same age. This means protecting against the virus with a vaccine is even more important.

Does the vaccine affect fertility?

You may have heard some misinformation suggesting that the vaccines might impair a woman’s ability to get pregnant. Scientists have debunked this claim.

In a joint statement, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine said there is no evidence the vaccine impacts women’s fertility. The idea that there could be fertility loss due to vaccination was “scientifically unlikely,” the statement read.

Another major study released in 2022 confirms that the COVID vaccines are not linked to fertility issues. The study followed over 2,000 females who provided information on their efforts to conceive and the vaccination status of their partners. Fertility rates among women who had received at least one vaccine didn’t differ from unvaccinated women. The pattern held for men as well. The Mayo Clinic also notes that there is “no evidence” that COVID-19 vaccines can cause fertility problems.

Are children eligible for the vaccine?

Children aged five and older are eligible for Pfizer’s two-dose coronavirus vaccine. If your child is 12 and older, they will receive the same version of the vaccine given to adults. If they are between five and 11, they receive a slightly lower dosage.

As of January 2022 children aged 12-17 are now eligible for booster shots made by Pfizer. They may receive boosters five months after they complete their primary vaccine series.

How safe is the vaccine for children?

The CDC currently recommends that children aged five years or older get the Pfizer vaccine. These recommendations were made after studies specifically evaluated the safety of this vaccine in children and the data was reviewed by outside experts.

For example, a clinical trial on 2,260 adolescents aged 12 to 15 found no serious adverse effects linked to the Pfizer vaccine. By December 2021, about 8.7 million children aged 5 through 11 had received a vaccine with very few serious side effects reported. Most reactions were mild and included pain in the injection site, fatigue and headache.

Side effects for booster shots, which are available for teens 16 and older, were mild as well, per a March CDC study. The most common side effects were injection site pain, fatigue, headache and muscle pain, which usually manifested the day after getting a booster.

How effective is the vaccine for kids?

Children five and older are eligible to receive Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine. The CDC estimates that the Pfizer vaccine is 90 percent effective against COVID-19 in kids 5 through eleven. That figure was also echoed in Pfizer’s study of the vaccine.

Real-world data has shown that vaccines have already been protecting adolescents, who became eligible to receive their shots earlier than children younger than 12. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in January 2022 found that the Pfizer vaccine was 94 percent effective in preventing hospitalizations among adolescents aged 12-18.

However, during the period of Omicron dominance, vaccines were less effective in children, per a CDC study released in March The vaccine was 51 percent effective against emergency visits in children five to 11 years old, between 2 weeks and 2 months post-second shot. Over that time, it was 45 percent effective in adolescents aged 12-15, and 34 percent effective in teens aged 16 and 17.

However, a booster shot, which is available for teens 16 and old restored protection to 81 percent.

BREAKTHROUGH INFECTIONS

You might have heard of terms like “breakthrough infections” or have noted some places have reinstated mask mandates.

While these changes can seem scary, the bottom line is vaccines and boosters are still the best tool we have to protect ourselves and our families from COVID-19. Masks are an additional tool and are even more important in light of the very-contagious Omicron variant.

Even in a world with safe and effective vaccines, public health researchers are constantly studying SARS-CoV-2 and the coronavirus variants. This work will inform the other safety precautions we may need to take, which means that guidelines can change as scientists learn more. Here is what we know so far about breakthrough infections and masks.

What is a breakthrough case?

A “breakthrough case” occurs when a person tests positive for COVID-19 at least 14 days after they have been fully vaccinated. You are deemed fully vaccinated after receiving two doses of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines and one dose of J&J’s vaccine. Since so many people are being vaccinated, the CDC expects to see some breakthrough infections occur, and they may occur more often now that Omicron is becoming more widespread.

The best way to lower the chance of getting a breakthrough case is to get vaccinated (unvaccinated people are 5 times more likely to get a COVID-19 infection than vaccinated and boosted people, per CDC research)and get a booster shot when eligible. The booster can increase protection against new variants like Omicron.

If you do get a breakthrough infection, it is important to self-isolate, monitor symptoms and get tested. The CDC suggests isolating for at least five days after a positive test.

How common are breakthrough cases?

Due to incomplete data, it’s impossible to know for sure how common breakthrough cases are. But many states are tracking cases on their own. You can check your state health department website for up-to-date information on breakthrough cases in your area. But be aware that, with Omicron surging and at-home testing is becoming more common, even those numbers may not be perfectly accurate.

Breakthrough cases are likely going to become more common because vaccines appear to be less effective against Omicron. But getting a booster shot can lower your odds of getting sick.

Are breakthrough cases dangerous?

The majority of the individuals who got COVID-19 after being fully vaccinated, experienced less severe symptoms, the CDC notes. Thus far, evidence suggests that the risk of severe illness from Omicron is also low, though scientists are still studying new variants.

Ultimately, the risks of getting very sick from COVID-19 are far higher if you are not vaccinated. Even if you are vaccinated and boosted, it is still important to stay home if you have any symptoms of COVID-19. While the risks of getting very sick are low, if you are infected with Delta or Omicron, you could risk passing on a case to someone else.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU WERE EXPOSED

With the Omicron variant surging, you may have noticed more people testing positive for COVID-19. If you are exposed to the virus or test positive yourself, there are plenty of simple steps you can take to protect yourself and your community. Below, you’ll find the latest guidance on testing, isolation and treatment. 

What Are the Symptoms of COVID-19?

Per the CDC, the symptoms of COVID-19 include:

– Fever
– Chills
– Cough
– Shortness of breath
– Fatigue
– Muscle Aches
– Headache
– Loss of smell or taste
– Sore throat
– Nasal Congestion
– Vomiting or Diarrhea
– Skin rash

If you experience any of these symptoms, you can confirm if you have COVID-19 by getting tested.

What Should I Do if I Am Exposed to Someone with COVID-19?

If you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, your course of action depends on your vaccination status.

If you:

– are up to date on your vaccines, meaning you have completed your primary series and received a booster if you are eligible or
– had COVID-19 in the last 90 days and confirmed it with a PCR test,

you do not need to quarantine. You should wear a mask when around others for 10 days, after your exposure. You can also get tested on day five post-exposure to confirm you have not contracted COVID-19.

If you:

– are eligible for a booster and have not received one or
– are unvaccinated,

the CDC recommends you stay home for five days. If you cannot quarantine, you must wear a well-fitting mask for 10 days while around others.

While you are isolating, keep an eye out for symptoms. If you develop symptoms, get tested immediately and isolate until you get results back.

If you don’t develop symptoms, get tested on day five post-exposure. If the test is negative, you may leave your home, but should continue to wear a mask around others for five more days.

How Do COVID-19 Tests Work?

There are two types of COVID-19 tests that can tell you if you currently have the virus. One is an “antigen” (sometimes referred to as a “rapid test”) and the other is a “PCR test.”

PCR tests are the gold standard for identifying a case of COVID-19. They are very accurate and are often able to pick up even small amounts of the virus in the body. These tests are most often done at your doctor’s office or a mobile testing site and you might not get results back for hours or days, depending on local conditions.

Antigen tests are not as accurate at detecting low levels of the virus in the body as PCR tests are, but they are good for getting fast results (results can be obtained in 15-30 minutes). Most over-the-counter home COVID-19 tests fall into this category.

The CDC cautions these tests aren’t as reliable for people without COVID-19 symptoms but are generally good at catching cases when people are at peak viral load (i.e. when they are likely most infectious).

If you have symptoms but test negative on a rapid test, it is best to confirm with a PCR test.

Do COVID-19 Tests Detect the Omicron Variant?

Both PCR and rapid tests are capable of detecting the Omicron variant. However, tests can’t tell you which variant you have. Early research suggests that rapid tests can still pick up the Omicron variant.

How Do I Know Which At-Home COVID-19 Test To Buy?

The FDA has issued dozens of Emergency Use Authorizations for at-home COVID-19 tests. To find tests that have the agency’s authorization, you can check a list available here on the agency’s website.

What Should I Do if I get COVID-19?

Regardless of vaccination status, you should self-isolate for five days if you test positive for COVID-19 according to CDC guidelines.

Self-isolation means that you avoid being around others, even within your own home. To calculate the five days of isolation, count your first day of symptoms as day zero and day one as the first full day after your symptoms began.

If your symptoms resolve after the five days of isolation, you can leave your home but should continue wearing a well-fitting mask for five more days around others to minimize the risk of infecting people you encounter.

However, if you continue to have a fever, stay home until that fever resolves. You should continue isolating until you have been fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and until your other symptoms resolve.

You should not travel during the five days of isolation and avoid travel for 10 full days after the first onset of your symptoms. If you must travel on days 6-10, you should wear a well-fitting mask when you are around others for the entire duration of your travel. Even on days 6-10 you should not go to places where you are unable to wear a mask, such as restaurants, and you should avoid eating around others in and outside the home.

At the moment, there is no CDC guidance requiring a negative test to end the isolation or masking period. However, if you have access to a test and want to test, the CDC recommends using an antigen test at the end of the five-day isolation period only if you have been fever-free for more than 24 hours without medications. If your test is positive, you should isolate until the end of day 10. If your test is negative, you can end isolation but should continue wearing a well-fitting mask.

How is COVID-19 Treated?

If you are vaccinated, studies suggest your risk of developing severe COVID-19 is low. If you develop mild symptoms and are not at high risk for COVID-19, you should be able to recover at home.

If you are at risk of developing severe COVID-19 there are several drugs that have gained FDA emergency approval. These drugs have been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization or death.

There are now two prescription COVID-19 oral antiviral therapies available that have received FDA emergency approval to treat mild to moderate diseasePaxlovid developed by Pfizer and molnupiravir developed by Merck. Paxlovid and molnupiravir reduce the risk of hospitalization and death by 88% and 30% respectively in patients at high risk for severe COVID-19 when started within five days of symptom onset.

Paxlovid is the preferred product and is available for patients 12 years of age and older (over 88 lbs). Molnupiravir should be considered for patients 18 years of age and older for whom alternative FDA-authorized COVID-19 treatment options are not accessible or clinically appropriate. Molnupiravir is not recommended for use during pregnancy.

In January 2022, the FDA also expanded the use of Remdesivir, the only drug with full FDA approval to treat COVID-19, to include use in high-risk non-hospitalized patients.

Another option for people at risk of developing severe COVID-19 is monoclonal antibody treatment. These are man-made antibodies that are delivered using an IV.

In early 2022, some of these monoclonal antibodies had emergency approval revised because they’re less effective against Omicron, which is dominant in the US. In their place, the CDC issued an Emergency Use Authorization for a monoclonal antibody called Bebtelovimab. This treatment was approved because of evidence suggesting it can combat the Omicron variant. It has emergency approval for use in children (12 and older weighing at least 88 pounds) and adults with mild to moderate COVID-19 who are at risk of developing more severe disease.

If you test positive and are at risk of developing severe COVID-19, your doctor can determine if these options are a good fit for you.

When Should I seek Care if I Have Tested Positive for COVID-19?

Many people who contract COVID-19 will be able to recover at home. However, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor if you test positive.

In addition, the CDC notes you should seek emergency attention if you exhibit the following symptoms:

– Trouble breathing
– Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
– New confusion
– Inability to wake or stay awake
– Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds.

This list is not exhaustive. If you are concerned about COVID-19 symptoms, contact your doctor.

MASKING

Do I need to wear a mask if I am vaccinated?

Depending on local conditions, mask recommendations may differ.

Assuming you are up to date on vaccinations, the CDC currently advises that localities follow three tiers of masking guidelines. You can find your local level of transmission by typing your state and county into this CDC tool.

– If you live in a place with low levels of new cases and hospitalizations, you can remove a mask if you feel comfortable. Get tested if you have symptoms.

– If you live in a place with medium levels of transmission and hospitalizations and are at high-risk, speak to your health care provider about masking. Get tested if you have symptoms.

– If you live in an area with high transmission and hospitalizations, wear a mask indoors while in public. Speak to your healthcare provider about other precautions you should take if you are high-risk and get tested if you have symptoms.

Do kids need to wear masks at school?

Check with your local state or school district to find guidance specific to your area. But if you would like to gauge your risk tolerance levels, you can check the levels of community transmission using this CDC tool. You are always welcome to wear a mask if you feel you are at risk.

Wearing masks in school helps protect immunocompromised students or students too young to be vaccinated. In light of information on the contagiousness of the Delta and Omicron variants, masks will also help slow the spread of COVID-19.

POST COVID

Even after you recover from COVID-19, it’s normal to have questions about long-term recovery, vaccination and other issues. Below we’ll tackle some common FAQs about post-COVID living.

What Is Long COVID?

A typical “acute” case of mild COVID-19 might last one or two weeks. Long COVID, by comparison, is a lingering condition that appears after the fact.

The World Health Organization’s definition notes that Long COVID usually appears within three months of a confirmed or probable COVID-19 case. But the CDC’s definition says that symptoms appearing four weeks after your initial COVID case dissolves may signal that you are experiencing Long COVID.

What Are The Symptoms Of Long Covid?

There are many symptoms of Long COVID and people with the condition report different combinations of them. However, cases of Long COVID may involve :

– Shortness of breath
– Fatigue
– A feeling of “brain fog” or confusion
– Cough
– Chest or stomach pain
– Headache
– Heart palpitations
– Pins and needles
– Diarrhea
– Sleep problems
– Joint or muscle pain
– Rash
– Mood changes
– Change in smell or taste
– Changes in menstrual cycles

These are only some of over 100 different symptoms linked to Long COVID. A major review of 50 studies on Long COVID, however, helps pinpoint some of the most common issues. That study notes that many Long COVID cases share symptoms usually seen in acute COVID-19, like respiratory symptoms, pain, fever, chest pain and headaches. But over time, common Long COVID symptoms may grow to include cognitive impairments (brain fog), fatigue, muscle and nerve pain, difficulty sleeping, mobility impairments and mood symptoms (like anxiety and depression).

If you do suspect that you have Long COVID, reach out to your healthcare provider. It may be useful, as well, to keep a journal of your symptoms and see what fluctuations occur, or if any activities aggravate them. The CDC also has a helpful checklist that can help you organize your symptoms and come up with questions for your healthcare provider.

Do Vaccines Protect Against Long Covid?

So far, emerging evidence has good news: The vaccines seem to have a protective effect against Long COVID. Though, it’s best to be slightly cautious with this work, as the evidence is very new.

One major study followed over one million people who used a COVID symptom tracker phone app. Ultimately, people who had received two vaccine doses (a full dose, in this case), had half the risk of developing COVID symptoms four weeks after infection. That study suggests that vaccination lowers the risk of Long COVID.

Another review of eight studies summarized by the UK Health Security agency suggests that vaccination reduces the chances of getting long COVID, even after initial infection.

Importantly, scientists are still ironing out whether variants, like Omicron, might affect the vaccines’ protection against Long COVID.

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