Science Mag: 'Rare Link Between Coronavirus Vaccines and Long Covid-Like Illness Starts to Gain Acceptance'

Chris Menahan
Jul. 05, 2023

So-called "Long Covid" in "rare" cases may actually be "Long Vax," Science Magazine reports.

Rare link between coronavirus vaccines and Long Covid–like illness starts to gain acceptance

Studies probe unusual cases of neurologic complications, blood pressure swings, and other side effects


COVID-19 vaccines have saved millions of lives, and the world is gearing up for a new round of boosters. But like all vaccines, those targeting the coronavirus can cause side effects in some people, including rare cases of abnormal blood clotting and heart inflammation. Another apparent complication, a debilitating suite of symptoms that resembles Long Covid, has been more elusive, its link to vaccination unclear and its diagnostic features ill-defined. But in recent months, what some call Long Vax has gained wider acceptance among doctors and scientists, and some are now working to better understand and treat its symptoms.

"You see one or two patients and you wonder if it's a coincidence," says Anne Louise Oaklander, a neurologist and researcher at Harvard Medical School. "But by the time you've seen 10, 20," she continues, trailing off. "Where there's smoke, there's fire."

Cases seem very rare—far less common than Long Covid after infection. Symptoms can include persistent headaches, severe fatigue, and abnormal heart rate and blood pressure. They appear hours, days, or weeks after vaccination and are difficult to study. But researchers and clinicians are increasingly finding some alignment with known medical conditions. One is small fiber neuropathy, a condition Oaklander studies, in which nerve damage can cause tingling or electric shock–like sensations, burning pain, and blood circulation problems. The second is a more nebulous syndrome, with symptoms sometimes triggered by small fiber neuropathy, called postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS). It can involve muscle weakness, swings in heart rate and blood pressure, fatigue, and brain fog.

Patients with postvaccination symptoms may have features of one or both conditions, even if they don't meet the criteria for a diagnosis. Both are also common in patients with Long Covid, where they're often attributed to an immune overreaction.

Although more researchers are now taking Long Vax seriously, regulators in the United States and Europe say they have looked for, but have not found, a connection between COVID-19 vaccines and small fiber neuropathy or POTS. "We can't rule out rare cases," says Peter Marks, director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, which oversees vaccines. "If a provider has somebody in front of them, they may want to take seriously the concept [of] a vaccine side effect," he says. But Marks also worries about "the sensational headline" that could mislead the public, and he emphasizes that vaccine benefits far outweigh any risks.

Despite the uncertainties, German Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach acknowledged in March that though rare, Long Covid–like symptoms after vaccination are a real phenomenon. He said his ministry was working to organize funding for studies, although none has been announced so far.
We can't study the side effects of these vaccines (or any others) lest anything negative we learn lead to bad headlines.

Avoiding negative headlines to keep from panicking the plebs is what Science™ is all about.
Researchers led by cardiologists Alan Kwan and Susan Cheng at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center analyzed a health database of almost 285,000 people in the Los Angeles area; all had received at least one COVID-19 shot. They found that within 90 days after a shot, the rate of POTS-related symptoms was about 33% higher than in the 3 months before; 2581 people were diagnosed with POTS-related symptoms after vaccination, compared with 1945 beforehand. However, the study found a bigger effect from COVID-19 itself: The rate of POTS symptoms in about 12,000 unvaccinated people after infection was 52% higher than beforehand. Although Kwan cautions against extrapolating these numbers to a wider population, he says the pattern is intriguing. "Our data show a relatively clear signal that there probably is an increase in POTS after vaccination and after infection," he says.

Others find the study compelling. "Even last year I was a little bit cautious" about the link between POTS and vaccination, says Tae Chung, a neuromuscular physiatrist who runs the POTS clinic at Johns Hopkins University. "I didn't have quantitative data to back it up, but now I feel like I do." Still, Chung stresses that this paper and other data also suggest COVID-19 vaccines protect against POTS and other Long Covid symptoms, and he remains a strong advocate for vaccination.

AN IMMUNE OVERREACTION to SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, which COVID-19 vaccines use to induce protective antibodies, is one possible cause of these symptoms. One theory is that after vaccination some people generate another round of antibodies targeting the first. Those antibodies could function somewhat like spike itself: Spike targets a cell surface protein called the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor, enabling the virus to enter cells. The rogue antibodies might also bind to ACE2, which helps regulate blood pressure and heart rate, says Bernhard Schieffer, a cardiologist at the University of Marburg. If those antibodies disrupt ACE2 signaling, that could cause the racing heart rates and blood pressure swings seen in POTS.

[...] Postvaccination illness is "a long, relentless disease," says Lawrence Purpura, an infectious disease specialist at Columbia University [...] who treats both Long Covid patients and those with chronic symptoms after vaccination.

A DIAGNOSIS OF POTS or small fiber neuropathy post-vaccination can guide treatment. In POTS, doctors focus on increasing salt and fluid intake to boost blood volume and maintain blood pressure. Beta blockers, which slow racing hearts, may also help.

Small fiber neuropathy is treated with various medications to manage symptoms, and for severe cases sometimes intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG), an expensive and hard-to-access antibody mixture that can tamp down immune overreactions. Some case studies report that IVIG helped people with postvaccine small fiber neuropathy, at least temporarily.

A more radical approach is plasma exchange, which is sometimes used for autoimmune disorders. Here the patient's plasma—the liquid part of the blood containing antibodies and proteins—is separated from the blood cells and discarded. The blood cells are then returned to the patient along with a replacement liquid.

Plasma exchange helped a man who developed small fiber neuropathy following his second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, Schelke and colleagues reported in October 2022 in Muscle & Nerve. "He responded very well," with months of improvement, Schelke says, but recently returned with worsening symptoms.
Incidentally, the quadruple-vaxxed 30-year-old German bodybuilder Jo "Joesthetics" Lindner -- who died suddenly from an aneurysm last week -- told an interviewer a few weeks ago that he got plasma treatment twice after suffering from post-vax issues.

Lindner also suffered from rippling muscle disease and was clearly taking all sorts of steroids, so who knows if it was actually linked (or what quality of treatment he received in Thailand).

Regardless, Long Vax is clearly a major issue but our authorities are ignoring it almost entirely to, in their own words, avoid negative headlines. Tens of millions of Americans took these shots due to fear of losing their jobs and being locked in their homes forever and those who experienced horrible side effects were told to shut their mouths and were censored on social media.

Despite including endless caveats and shilling the vax themselves, I'm sure Science Mag will get harassed for even publishing this.

A great crime took place here and the perpetrators need to be held accountable.

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