NBC Connecticut Investigates spoke exclusively with several COVID-19 “long haulers” about six months ago about symptoms they said persisted several months after initially contracting the virus. Now, there is new reporting that some “long haulers” are finding symptom relief after getting vaccinated.
“Memory issues, word-finding issues; I call things by a different name sometimes,” Louise McLellan, of East Lyme, said.
The former emergency room nurse received her Moderna doses a few months ago.
McLellan said she is still dealing with debilitating symptoms that began after first contracting COVID-19 about a year ago. She said she has not noticed any improvements in her condition post-vaccination.
“I’m hopeful that somewhere along the line, they’ll be able to give us some answers,” McLellan said.
Common “long hauler” symptoms include chronic cough, chest pain, shortness of breath, sleep issues and memory problems - often referred to as “brain fog.”
“I cannot multitask anymore,” McLellan said. “My focus has to be on one thing.”
Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine are launching a new study, collecting blood and saliva samples from “long haulers,” before and after vaccination.
"Whatever we find, I believe it's going to be very useful going forward in developing a therapy,” Dr. Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at the school, told NBC News.
"So even just trying to understand what type of symptoms people are experiencing, and how that changes with the vaccine alone would be incredibly informative,” Iwasaki added.
Initially, the study will be open to people in Connecticut with plans to expand nationwide.
Researchers said they plan to compare immune responses, and hopefully learn if the vaccine is, in fact, correlated to changes in symptoms.
Dr. Lauren Ferrante, who leads the Yale School of Medicine’s Post-COVID-19 Recovery Program, has yet to see improvement in her patients after their shots.
“It’s going to be quite a while before we have a large enough sample size, probably, to draw any conclusions,” Dr. Ferrante said.
COVID-19 survivor Vicie Brooks, a retired nurse from Hartford, said her fatigue and “brain fog” has yet to go away, even months after her Pfizer shots.
“Not with my physical body,” Brooks said when asked about any improvement.
“But mentally, it did something for me. It made you feel a little bit more confident,” she added.
“The protection is better than having the COVID,” Brooks said.
There is renewed hope that ongoing research into these ongoing symptoms will bring relief to all “long haulers” soon.