Can vaccinated people get long Covid? Doctors say risk is ‘very, very small’


Coronavirus infections leading to long-haul Covid-19 in fully vaccinated people are probably very rare, experts say.

The Covid-19 vaccines have been shown to significantly reduce infections, as well as the risk of severe consequences of the illness, including hospitalization and death. That means that if a fully vaccinated person does become infected, the illness is much more likely to be mild.

But for many Covid-19 long-haulers, it was a mild infection that set off their lingering symptoms, leaving many to wonder whether a mild breakthrough case in someone who is fully vaccinated could do the same.

It is theoretically possible, experts say, for that to occur. But doctors treating Covid-19 patients across the country contend that it doesn’t appear to be a significant risk.

Breakthrough infections resulting in long Covid-19 are “quite rare,” said Dr. Greg Vanichkachorn, an occupational medicine specialist who works with post-Covid-19 syndrome patients at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Vanichkachorn’s observation, while based only on what he’s seen in the clinic, is echoed at other post-Covid-19 clinics.

Dr. Michele Longo, an assistant professor of neurology at Tulane University in New Orleans who works with long-haul patients, said she has not seen such patients following a breakthrough infection. Neither has Dr. Maureen Lyons, medical director of the Care and Recovery from Covid-19 Clinic at Washington University in St. Louis.

Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, a clinical epidemiologist, also at Washington University, is studying the effects of Covid-19 vaccination on the risk of long Covid-19. His research, which is not yet finished, looks at information on more than 5 million veterans within a Department of Veterans Affairs database, including 200,000 who were diagnosed with Covid-19.

“Of the people who get vaccinated and end up with a breakthrough infection, their risk of coming back to the clinic with some long Covid manifestation is very, very small,” Al-Aly said.