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Long Covid: why are double-jabbed people with Omicron variant less likely to suffer long term symptoms?

Long Covid symptoms are estimated to be adversely affecting the day-to-day activities of 1.2 million people in the UK

The Omicron variant of Covid-19 is much less likely than Delta to result in long Covid in those who have had two doses of a coronavirus vaccine, according to new figures.

But how much less likely are the double-jabbed to develop long Covid after Omicron and how does this differ from Delta?

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Here’s what you need to know.

Long Covid symptoms are estimated to be adversely affecting the day-to-day activities of 1.2 million people in the UK

How likely are you to get long Covid after two jabs?

Data shows that the odds of double-vaccinated adults infected with the Omicron BA.1 strain reporting having long Covid four to eight weeks later were 50% lower than those who had Delta.

The experimental statistics also suggested there is no evidence of a difference in risk of long Covid between first infections with Delta compared to the Omicron BA.1 and BA.2 variants among adults who were triple-vaccinated.

However, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the odds of adults who are triple-jabbed reporting long Covid symptoms four to eight weeks after first being infected were 22% higher with the Omicron BA.2 variant compared to the BA.1 strain.

But the ONS added that there was no statistical evidence of a difference in the likelihood of activity-limiting long Covid between the Omicron BA.1 and BA.2 variants.

The ONS said: “Among double-vaccinated, adult study participants, the socio-demographically adjusted prevalence of self-reported long Covid four to eight weeks after a first coronavirus (Covid-19) infection compatible with the Delta variant was 15.9%.

“This is compared with 8.7% for infections compatible with the Omicron BA.1 variant.

“Among triple-vaccinated adults, there was no statistical evidence of a difference in the adjusted prevalence of self-reported long Covid between first infections compatible with the Delta variant and those compatible with either Omicron BA.1 or Omicron BA.2.

“However, adjusted prevalence was higher for infections compatible with Omicron BA.2 (9.3%) than it was for those compatible with Omicron BA.1 (7.8%).”

Separate figures from the ONS also show an estimated 1.8 million people in the UK were likely to be experiencing symptoms of long Covid in the four weeks to 3 April, which is the equivalent of 2.8% of the population.

This is a 6% rise from 1.7 million people a month earlier, and includes 791,000 people who first had Covid-19, or suspected they had the virus, at least one year ago.

What is long Covid?

Long Covid symptoms are estimated to be adversely affecting the day-to-day activities of 1.2 million people, around two-thirds of those with self-reported long Covid.

Self-reported long Covid is defined as symptoms persisting for more than four weeks after a first suspected Covid-19 infection that could not be explained by something else.

According to the NHS, common long Covid symptoms include:

  • extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain or tightness
  • problems with memory and concentration ("brain fog")
  • difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
  • heart palpitations
  • dizziness
  • pins and needles
  • joint pain
  • depression and anxiety
  • tinnitus, earaches
  • feeling sick, diarrhoea, stomach aches, loss of appetite
  • a high temperature, cough, headaches, sore throat, changes to sense of smell or taste
  • rashes

The ONS said the prevalence of self-reported long Covid was greatest in people aged 35 to 49, females, people living in more deprived areas, those working in social care, teaching and education or health care, and those with another activity-limiting health condition or disability.