COVID Infection Not the Only Cause for Long COVID: Immunologist

‘At present, public health officials are flying blind when it comes to long COVID and vaccination,’ Professor Robert Tindle said.
COVID Infection Not the Only Cause for Long COVID: Immunologist
In this photo illustration a man uses a COVID-19 rapid antigen test kit at home in Sydney, Australia, on Sept. 29, 2021. (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Henry Jom

Long COVID may not be solely caused by a COVID-19 infection given the lack of long-term safety data associated with the COVID-19 vaccine, an immunology professor has said.

In an externally peer-reviewed op-ed published by the Australian Journal of General Practice, Emeritus Professor Robert Tindle said that public health officials are “flying blind” when it comes to linking long COVID to post-COVID-19 vaccination.

“There is no consensus on what causes lingering COVID-19 symptoms long after the acute infection has cleared,” Mr. Tindle opined, adding that patients who are unable to secure a diagnosis for long COVID have sought multiple medical opinions only to be told the condition is due to “anxiety or post-pandemic mental issues.”

Long COVID is described by the World Health Organisation as the continuation or development of new symptoms three months after the initial SARS-CoV-2 infection, with these symptoms lasting for at least two months without any alternative explanation. This definition is now accepted by the Australian government.

The median time for long COVID symptoms is five months, with 10 percent of patients having symptoms at 12 months, according to a study.
Fatigue, shortness of breath, and difficulty concentrating have been reported in patients up to two years post-infection.

Mr. Tindle said that the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 exhibits pathogenic characteristics, and is a possible cause of acute symptoms after a COVID-19 infection or post-vaccine.

“COVID-19 vaccines utilise a modified, stabilised prefusion spike protein that might share similar toxic effects with its viral counterpart,” Mr. Tindle said.

“A possible association between COVID-19 vaccination and the incidence of POTS (postural orthopaedic tachycardia syndrome) has been demonstrated in a cohort of 284,592 COVID-19-vaccinated individuals, though at a rate that was one-fifth of the incidence of POTS after SARS-CoV-2 infection.”

Mr. Tindle listed other associations with long COVID following the uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine, including an increase in myocarditis post-vaccination, elevated spike proteins in muscle tissues, the lymphatic system, and the circulatory system, and elevated levels of IgG4 antibodies that are linked to the promotion of cancer.

“There are clear implications for vaccine boosting where these and similar observations relating to COVID-19 vaccination and the incidence of long COVID-like symptoms are substantiated, adding further to public health officials’ concerns,” he said.

“Understanding the persistence of viral mRNA and viral protein and their cellular pathological effects after vaccination with and without infection is clearly required.

“Because COVID-19 vaccines were approved without long-term safety data and might cause immune dysfunction, it is perhaps premature to assume that past SARS-CoV-2 infection is the sole common factor in long COVID.”

Moreover, Dr. Aseem Malhotra—Britain’s high-profile cardiologist and previous supporter of mRNA COVID vaccines—previously told The Epoch Times that heart complications—such as cardiac arrhythmia, heart failure, cardiac arrest, myocarditis, and pericarditis—have seen an uptick since the vaccine rollout.

“Long vax” is the colloquial term used to describe long COVID caused by vaccination.

Long COVID From Omicron Variant

Meanwhile, a study by the Australian National University (ANU) has found the risk of developing long COVID from the Omicron variant is higher than originally thought.

The Australian study found that in a highly vaccinated population not broadly exposed to earlier SARS-CoV-2 variants, 18 percent of people infected with the Omicron variant reported symptoms consistent with long COVID 90 days after infection.

“Despite reports that the risk of long COVID may be lower following Omicron infections than with earlier SARS-CoV-2 variants, we found that the burden of long COVID may be substantial 90 days after Omicron infections,” lead researcher Mulu Woldegiorgis said.

Additionally, the study found that 90 percent of the study participants with long COVID reported experiencing multiple symptoms, such as tiredness and fatigue (70 percent), followed by difficulty thinking or concentrating (brain fog), sleep problems, and coughing. A third of women in the study reported changes in their menstrual cycle.

However, a study by Germany’s Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg has shown that unvaccinated people infected with the Omicron variant had the lowest risk of long COVID.

The study found that while previous infections reduce the risk of long COVID by 86 percent, vaccination status prior to COVID infection is irrelevant to a person’s risk of developing long COVID.

However, the authors of the German study acknowledged that none of the participants were given an actual diagnosis of long COVID or tested for comorbidities.

Long COVID Presents Health and Financial Challenges

Mr. Tindle outlined the health and financial challenges faced by Australians who have long COVID, saying that support measures need to be in place for those who suffer from the chronic condition.
According to a 2022 study (pdf) by the Australian National University (ANU), approximately 500,000 adult Australians, or 4.7 percent have experienced long COVID.
Mr. Tindle described the frustrations expressed by long COVID support groups, such as the Australian Long COVID Community Facebook Support Group, including inadequate health system responses in dealing with long COVID.

“The outcome for some of those experiencing long COVID is self-prescribed medication using over-the-counter remedies and dietary changes based on potentially conflicting or misleading online information. Some speak of a substantial proportion of their income being used this way,” he said.

However, Mr. Tindle did acknowledge the listings of antiviral drugs for COVID such as Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir and ritonavir) and Lagevrio (molnupiravir).

An estimated 240,000 of those with long COVID no longer work full time, thus affecting the economy, Mr. Tindle said.

“Reduced to working part-time to cope with unwellness, those with long COVID commonly report having to wait a year or more before receiving a diagnosis,” he said.

“Without a definitive diagnosis, those with long COVID are not eligible for Job Seeker, the Disability Support Pension and National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) protection under the Fair Work Act, thereby conferring long-term financial difficulties for themselves and their dependents.

“There is a need for guidelines on how those with long COVID can access social security and employment protection.”

Mr. Tindle added that both the federal and state health departments need to provide more guidance to primary healthcare providers on handling long COVID.

“Although some states have established long COVID clinics, some of these at least are of little help to the patient in providing substantive treatment guidelines or support and are little more than incident report centres,” he said, adding that the wait time for a long COVID clinic is usually months, with some GPs unaware of the clinics’ existence.

“Long COVID is not an easy medical condition for clinicians, health administrators, support systems, or patients. The Australian health system is already stretched in coping with other chronic medical conditions,” he said.

“Nevertheless, we must do better than in the approximate three years since long COVID was first reported.”

Henry Jom is a reporter for The Epoch Times, Australia, covering a range of topics, including medicolegal, health, political, and business-related issues. He has a background in the rehabilitation sciences and is currently completing a postgraduate degree in law. Henry can be contacted at [email protected]