While the vaccines are effective at preventing serious illness and death, the risk of developing post-Covid health problems after a breakthrough infection isn’t known.

By Tara Parker-Pope

While some breakthrough cases among those who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 are inevitable, they are unlikely to result in hospitalization or death. But one important question about breakthrough infection that remains unanswered is: Can the vaccinated develop so-called long Covid?

Long Covid refers to a set of symptoms — such as severe fatigue, brain fog, headache, muscle pain and sleep problems — that can persist for weeks or months after the active infection has ended. The syndrome is poorly understood, but studies suggest that between 10 and 30 percent of adults who catch the virus may experience long Covid, including those who experienced only mild illness or no symptoms at all.

But the vast majority of data collected about long Covid has been in the unvaccinated population. The risk of developing long Covid for the fully vaccinated who get infected after vaccination hasn’t been studied.

While preliminary research suggests that it is, in fact, possible for a breakthrough case to lead to symptoms that can persist for weeks to months, there are still more questions than answers. What percent of breakthrough cases result in lingering symptoms? How many of those people recover? Are the persistent symptoms after breakthrough infection as severe as those that occur in the unvaccinated?

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