A vial of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine
A vial of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Photo by Darrow Montgomery

There’s been no rest from the pandemic for some District residents with long COVD—lingering and often debilitating symptoms that range from fatigue and brain fog to joint pain, heart palpitations, and gastrointestinal distress. Many are still dealing with health issues—and the devastating impact on their relationships, livelihoods, and overall quality of life—months or years after their infection.

You wouldn’t know it from D.C.’s current state of reduced COVID-19 protocols, though. D.C. schools continue to not require masking and maintain shortened quarantine protocols despite rising COVID cases. And the city doesn’t require masks in indoor spaces.

For Norma, a Ward 1 resident, who told City Paper last August that her home life had changed since her family got COVID and her husband developed severe long-term symptoms, the pandemic is still far from over. She tells City Paper this morning that her family is fully vaccinated and continues to wear masks outside. But the problems haven’t vanished. Her husband, who developed arthritis and other conditions after a COVID-19 infection, has only gotten worse, she says. Her son, who developed depression during the pandemic, has had worsening problems at school, and Norma thinks prolonged COVID symptoms are behind it.

Scientists have been shedding light on these issues and might be getting closer to understanding long COVID and the limitations of vaccines. Findings from a large study published in Nature Medicine on Wednesday, which looked at the protection COVID vaccines offer from monthslong COVID symptoms, disappointed researchers and public health officials, the Post reports

Covering the pre-omicron pandemic period between Jan. 1 to Oct. 31, 2021, the Department of Veterans Affairs study analyzed the records of 33,940 people who had breakthrough infections after receiving two doses of Moderna or Pfizer, or one dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccines (the impact of booster shots wasn’t studied) alongside a control group. Vaccinated individuals only had a 15 percent overall reduced risk of getting long COVID. They showed a greatest reduced risk for blood clotting and lung disorders, but no difference in long-term risks for developing neurological or gastrointestinal issues, kidney failure, or other complications. 

“I was hoping to see that vaccines offer more protection, especially given that vaccines are our only line of defense nowadays,” Ziyad Al-Aly, lead author and chief of research and development service at VA Saint Louis Health Care System, tells the Post

The study is thought to be the largest peer-reviewed analysis of long COVID in the U.S. based on medical records. Since becoming more widely accepted by the medical community—after many “long-haulers” were dismissed by doctors who were convinced their symptoms were psychosomatic—long COVID symptoms and vaccines’ possible protections against longer-term conditions have been studied worldwide, to many contradictory findings. This study, while large, merely adds to the debate.

What’s not up for debate, after much advocacy from long-haulers and allies, and narratives from residents like Norma, is how some people’s bodies are experiencing the pandemic differently from others.

—Ambar Castillo (tips? acastillo@washingtoncitypaper.com)

  • To see today’s COVID-19 data, visit our coronavirus tracker.
  • More than 20 people in Northwest have been apprehended for alleged drug and gun possession after a yearlong investigation as part of an “Uptown Express” operation. [WTOP]
  • Starting tomorrow and up until Sept. 5, Orange Line riders at several stations will have to use free shuttle bus services along three routes or alternative Metrorail lines. The five affected stations are New Carrollton, Landover, Cheverly, Deanwood and Minnesota Avenue. [WUSA9]
  • D.C.-area students rally to demand gun control measures in the wake of the Texas school shooting. [Post]

By Ambar Castillo (tips? acastillo@washingtoncitypaper.com)

Credit: Darrow Montgomery/file

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By Sarah Marloff (tips? smarloff@washingtoncitypaper.com)

  • The Citi Open returns to Rock Creek Park on July 30, with both women’s and men’s tournaments. (Disclosure: City Paper owner Mark Ein is the event’s chairman) [WTOP]
  • Ariel Atkins isn’t a household name. But the humble 25-year-old is racking up accolades and putting up numbers that have opponents taking notice. [Post]
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By City Paper staff (tips? editor@washingtoncitypaper.com)

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