People with mild covid-19 can have long-term health problems. The NY Times recently reported on a VA study, published in Nature, showing the long-term health impacts on many people who had mild covid-19 cases. The study reviewed over 73,000 people who had mild covid infection and did not require hospitalization.
A few key points from the study:
1. People with mild covid illness had a 60% higher rate of death over a six month period than comparable people without covid. The causes of death were not identified.
2. They had a 20% higher need for outpatient medical care than non-infected people.
3. Post-covid problems in this population included lung problems, cardiac problems, neurological problems, psychiatric problems, and others. How long these problems will persist is of course not yet known.
4. It needs to be noted that the study population was not representative of the U.S. population. Because it was a VA study, the average age was 61. 88% of the subjects were male. 25% were Black. Nonetheless, there is a clear possibility that the long-term health problems experienced by so many in this group might also be found among women and among younger people with mild covid illness.
More studies on the long-term sequelae of covid-19 infection, both mild and severe, will be done in the months and years ahead. Much is not yet known. But it is becoming increasingly clear that this virus can cause long-term health problems, even in people with mild illness who recover quickly, and even in younger people.
Why am I bringing this up? To encourage people not to treat this pandemic dismissively. To not shrug it off as a nothing-burger. I bring it up in hopes of encouraging folks to get vaccinated.
Of course life is full of risks. Some we have control over. Some we don’t. I understand why some folks may be hesitant about getting a relatively new vaccine, out of concern for possible side effects. Or out of a feeling that even if they themselves get infected with covid-19, it won’t be a big deal.
What is becoming increasingly clear, with well over 104,000,000 Americans now fully vaccinated, is that the risk of side effects from the vaccines is negligible. If there were significant side effects, they should have become apparent by now. And it is also becoming more clear that even those with a mild infection might be in for long-term problems, posing significant risks to quality of life, the ability to participate in sports and other physical activities, and possibly even to one’s lifespan itself.
So, weighing the risks between possible vaccine side effects and possible covid-19 side effects, I think the scales tilt strongly towards getting the vaccine. I’m happy to try to answer any questions about vaccines folks have.