Vaccines are ultimately the only way to ensure that we beat COVID-19, yet vaccine hesitancy remains a threat to attaining herd immunity and protecting the whole community. In this series, Virologist at Rhodes University and member of the Provincial COVID-19 Expert Panel, Professor Rosemary Dorrington, will address queries, fears, and misinformation that many of our citizens face.
Misconception: “I’d rather take my chances with a little bout of COVID-19 than to bother getting vaccinated.”
The long-term effects of having had mild to severe COVID-19, referred to as “long-COVID”, are only now starting to emerge and it does not look good. SARS-CoV-2 is not a virus you can simply walk away from and this is becoming increasingly evident over time, as we start to see more and more published research reports about the potentially devastating effects of long-COVID.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), long-COVID is defined as “a wide range of new, returning, or ongoing health problems people can experience four or more weeks after first being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19”.
Some of the more concerning results of long-term COVID-19 studies include:
- A third (33%) of over 200 000 health records from a study published in The Lancet showed long-term (in the six months following infection) instances of neurological and psychiatric diseases as a result of COVID-19.
- These neurological and psychiatric diseases include intracranial haemorrhage (bleeding on the brain), stroke, parkinsonism, dementia, anxiety disorder, and psychotic disorder.
- This is supported by a study done by the University of Oxford that found COVID-19 poses an 8 to 10 times higher chance than mRNA coronavirus vaccines and 100 times greater than the general population in the USA to cause blood clots.
- A new and worrying risk of acute COVID-19 is an increased risk of developing diabetes
- COVID-19 can lead to long-term cardiac complications. The disease can cause inflammation of the heart or heart muscle damage and it is not likely that people will recover from this.
- There have been severe cases of people ending up with permanent loss of lung function due to damage caused by microclotting and intubation (being on ventilators).
Although COVID-19 was first believed to be mainly a respiratory disease (like influenza), it is becoming increasingly clear that the SARS-CoV-2 causes damage throughout the body, beyond the lungs.
No matter what age you are, you run the risk of serious life-long impairment. We are seeing the new highly transmissible Delta variant causing acute infections in more people in the 15-25 age group and they are starting to land up in hospital. COVID-19 is no longer regarded as a disease that targets older people.
Finally, you may not retain long-term immunity after recovering from COVID-19. The evidence in India and South Africa is that many people who had COVID-19 in the first and second wave, became seriously ill following infection with the Delta variant. Based on information currently available, the only road to long term immunity is with vaccination.
Please look out for my upcoming Straight Talk that will cover the variants in detail.
For those people still doubting the seriousness of the disease, I appeal that you please reconsider. Some of you may have had a mild case of COVID-19 and believe you are now immune, but you can still get sick from a different variant and the effects could be much worse on reinfection.
The only way to stop the virus is to take away its ability to move to a new host (person) – and the surest way to do this is to get vaccinated. The fewer people that are infected, the less the virus can replicate. And fewer hosts reduce the chances that mutations can occur – thus reducing the number of variants that can emerge. And so, eventually, the virus disappears.
If you have your own burning question, you can email it to email@example.com and it might be featured as part of this series.