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This post originally appeared in the Dec. 21 Morning Report. Subscribe to the Morning Report here.
If you somehow missed our latest podcast interview with immunologist Shane Crotty, who helped explain the omicron variant and answered many other questions we had about the COVID-19 pandemic as it stands now, we have this summary of the interview available here.
We had a follow up for Crotty as well: what’s the deal with so-called “Long COVID” and what are the risks people who have been vaccinated should understand about it? We asked and he emailed this response:
“It’s a great question. There is no clear answer. The chances of vaxxed getting long COVID from Delta were low, but real. The chances of vaxxed getting long COVID from Omicron are unknown, but it is reasonable to assume for now they are the same chance as for Delta.
“Long COVID is not well understood. The two most likely causes of long COVID are (1) An unusually large amount of damage to tissue (e.g. lung) from a high viral load and the virus killing lots of cells, which is not visible by eye, but takes a long time to heal; or (2) an autoimmune antibody response, which almost exclusively occurs in people hospitalized with COVID and probably reflects a situation where the infection was so bad, the immune system just decides to throw the kitchen sink at the virus, and sometimes that has undesired consequences. Both of those scenarios are the consequence of a person having a lot of virus for a longer-than-average infection. So, vaccination should protect from long COVID by reducing all of that (fewer infections, lower overall viral load, much shorter infections, much fewer hospitalizations). Consistent with that, the highest risk factor for long COVID is hospitalization with COVID.
“Long COVID advocates focus on the fact that vaxxed people can still get long COVID. That is true, but the risks are much lower. (And it has made it a charged topic on Twitter this past year.) The definitions of long COVID are fuzzy, so it is still difficult to nail down how common ‘severe’ long COVID is and how long it lasts. There is a big difference, to me at least, between having any measurable symptom still 2-3 months later (e.g., a bit of drainage, or a bit of shortness of breath when exercising) and having serious symptoms 2-3 months later (e.g. can’t work! Can’t think straight. Can’t walk up stairs.). The less serious stuff occurs for a variety of respiratory virus infections we get from time to time. It’s not great, for sure, but it’s not unique to this virus.”
The money line seems to be that one about hospitalizations.
Here is the latest on hospitalizations in San Diego County as of Dec. 15:
In hospitals: There were 371 people in San Diego County hospitals battling COVID-19. Ninety-five of them are in ICUs.
Vaccinated: Since March 2021, 3,083 people who are not fully vaccinated have had to go to the hospital in San Diego to fight COVID-19. Only 627 fully vaccinated people have had to, even though they make up more than 76 percent of the population over age 5 who are eligible to be vaccinated (2.42 million people).
School vaccine mandate stalls: A judge has ruled San Diego Unified School District’s requirement that all students 16 and older be vaccinated before returning to school after Jan. 24 is unlawful (NBC 7 San Diego). The district can still appeal.