Some long-haul patient’s symptoms improve after receiving COVID-19 vaccine

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Some people suffering from long-haul COVID-19 symptoms are now feeling better after getting the coronavirus vaccine. That’s according to a doctor at IU Health and the grassroots group, Survivor Corps.

Juanita Strait, long-haul patient

Experts emphasize that the research is in its early stages, and it is not clear if the improved symptoms are due to the shot, or something else. However, a study at Yale is being launched on the subject this week.

“It was very scary. I just felt like I will not survive a second run with this,” said Juanita Strait. 

Strait can’t fathom getting COVID-19 again. The California native got sick in March of 2020 and had been suffering long-hauler symptoms in the months since. 

“The dizziness. The brain fog. The word salad. The fatigue” said Strait.

Then Strait got the COVID-19 vaccine in December.  After both doses, she initially felt worse. However, almost a month after she was fully vaccinated, she felt better.

Juanita Strait, long-haul patient (Provided Photo)

“I feel like I reached about 70% better,” said Strait.

“The one thing we were not prepared for, however, was people feeling better from the vaccine,” said Diana Berrent, the founder of Survivor Corps. 

Survivor Corp is an online grassroots group of more than 150,000 COVID-19 survivors. Berrent said Straight is not the only person with improved symptoms.

“We did a poll at Survivor Corps and out of 875 people who participated, 41% felt that their long-term COVID symptoms were better after the vaccine. Now, that is anywhere from mild symptom relief, to full symptom relief,” said Berrent.

According to Survivor Corps, 14% of the patients polled felt worse after the vaccine, however, they never got their second dose. The rest of the group polled didn’t see or feel a change.

“I am hearing, actually anecdotally, from a few patients I see for long-haul symptoms that they feel better after their vaccine,” said Dr. Cole Beeler with IU Health.

Dr. Beeler is the medical director of Infection Prevention at Indiana University Hospital. He has seen about 20%-30% of his patient’s symptoms improve after getting their shots.

Juanita Strait, long-haul patient (Provided Photo)

“They feel like a new person. They swear it was the vaccine. It was the only thing that changed and it’s an anecdote, right. So, it’s hard to say that this is something that is real, but it is hard to argue with someone’s personal experience,” said Dr. Beeler.

Now, it’s up to scientists to find out why. Doctors said there are two theories. Either long-haul patients still have the COVID-19 virus somewhere in their body and the vaccine helps the immune system get rid of it. Or, the initial infection caused an abnormal immune response and the vaccine shocks the system to once again behave appropriately.

“Any sort of evidence of patients improving from this completely unknown clinical manifestation is positive and optimistic. And we have to take it seriously,” said Dr. Beeler.

As for Strait, she’s just happy she’s vaccinated and on the road to recovery.

“I am grateful for my life,” said Straight. “I am here and not everybody is as lucky as me.”

People who have gotten sick with COVID-19, currently have long-haul symptoms and haven’t gotten the vaccine might be good candidates for the study at Yale. Survivor Corps said they should have more information on how to sign up later this week.