Omicron Less Likely To Trigger Long Covid Than Delta, Data Suggests

The Omicron variant is less likely to trigger long Covid among double-vaccinated people, according to new data.

Omicron caused widespread alarm when it first emerged towards the end of 2021, and pushed the government to roll out the booster vaccine program quickly.

The highly-transmissible variant swept through the UK at speed and quickly became the dominant strain. But, it was soon found to be less severe than Delta as the risk of death from Omicron 67% lower.

Now new data suggests Omicron may also be less likely to cause long Covid for those adults who have been double-jabbed – but the situation changes again if you’ve received three jabs.

What is long Covid?

Long Covid is when a person who tested positive for the virus has symptoms persisting for longer than four weeks after the first initial infection, which cannot be explained by something else.

This is usually fatigue, shortness of breath, loss of smell and difficulty concentrating. It mostly occurs to people aged between 35 and 49 (particularly women) as well as those living in more depriving areas, working in social care, education or health care, with other health conditions or disabilities.

Approximately 1.8 million people in the UK are believed to be experiencing long Covid symptoms, according to data collected in the month leading up to April 3.

That is a 6% increase from the previous month, and the highest number recorded so far throughout the pandemic.

Around two-thirds of the people who believe they have long Covid say it has affected their day-to-day activities.

So, how could the double-vaccinated be affected?

According to the latest stats from the Office for National Statistics, double-vaccinated adults infected with Omicron BA.1 (the first sub-variant) were 50% less likely to report having long Covid four to eight weeks after infection.

The risk of developing long Covid up to two months after an initial infection of Delta was 15.9%.

This dropped to 8.7% for infections linked to Omicron’s BA.1.

What if you’ve received three Covid vaccines?

The likelihood of getting long Covid changes when looking at the data for those who have been triple-jabbed.

ONS found there is no change in the risk of developing long Covid between first infections with Delta and Omicron among the triple-vaccinated.

Is there a difference between the Omicron sub-variants?

Yes – when it comes to the two Omicron strains, BA.1 and BA.2, the so-called “stealth variant” the chances of developing long Covid change again.

The stats suggest the odds of triple-jabbed adults reporting long Covid symptoms during that same period were 22% high with the Omicron stealth variant than BA.1.

ONS has pointed out that for Omicron BA.1, around 7.8% self-reported experiencing long Covid.

That compares to 9.3% with the stealth sub-variant.

However, the data did not reveal what kind of long Covid risk there is for the new sub-variant, which is a combination of BA.1 and BA.2 and dubbed Omicron XE.

Experts are still learning about Covid-19. The information in this story is what was known or available at the time of publication, but guidance could change as scientists discover more about the virus. To keep up to date with health advice and cases in your area, visit gov.uk/coronavirus and nhs.uk.

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