Reducing the risk
Given all the data so far, experts recommend urgent policy changes to help people with long COVID.
“The population needs to be prepared, that understanding long COVID is going to be a very long and difficult process,” said Alexander Charney, MD, PhD, associate professor and the lead principal investigator of the RECOVER adult cohort at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. He said the government can do a great deal to help, including setting up a network of connected clinics treating long COVID, standardizing best practices, and sharing information.
“That would go a long way towards making sure that every person feels like they’re not too far away from a clinic where they can get treated for this particular condition,” he said.
But the only known way to prevent long COVID is to prevent COVID-19 infections in the first place, experts say. That means equitable access to tests, therapeutics, and vaccines.
“I will say that avoiding COVID remains the best treatment in the arsenal right now,” said Dr. Kaushal. This means masking, avoiding crowded places with poor ventilation and high exposure risk, and being up to date on vaccinations, she said.
A number of papers – including a large U.K. study published in May 2022, another one from July, and the JAMA study from October – all suggest that vaccinations can help reduce the risk of long COVID.
“I am absolutely of the belief that vaccination has reduced the incidence and overall amount of long COVID … [and is] still by far the best thing the public can do,” said Dr. Schwartz.
A version of this article first appeared on WebMD.com.