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BACKGROUND: Although vaccines have proved effective to prevent severe COVID-19, their effect on preventing long-term symptoms is not yet fully understood. We aimed to evaluate the overall effect of vaccination to prevent long COVID symptoms and assess comparative effectiveness of the most used vaccines (ChAdOx1 and BNT162b2). METHODS: We conducted a staggered cohort study using primary care records from the UK (Clinical Practice Research Datalink [CPRD] GOLD and AURUM), Catalonia, Spain (Information System for Research in Primary Care [SIDIAP]), and national health insurance claims from Estonia (CORIVA database). All adults who were registered for at least 180 days as of Jan 4, 2021 (the UK), Feb 20, 2021 (Spain), and Jan 28, 2021 (Estonia) comprised the source population. Vaccination status was used as a time-varying exposure, staggered by vaccine rollout period. Vaccinated people were further classified by vaccine brand according to their first dose received. The primary outcome definition of long COVID was defined as having at least one of 25 WHO-listed symptoms between 90 and 365 days after the date of a PCR-positive test or clinical diagnosis of COVID-19, with no history of that symptom 180 days before SARS-Cov-2 infection. Propensity score overlap weighting was applied separately for each cohort to minimise confounding. Sub-distribution hazard ratios (sHRs) were calculated to estimate vaccine effectiveness against long COVID, and empirically calibrated using negative control outcomes. Random effects meta-analyses across staggered cohorts were conducted to pool overall effect estimates. FINDINGS: A total of 1 618 395 (CPRD GOLD), 5 729 800 (CPRD AURUM), 2 744 821 (SIDIAP), and 77 603 (CORIVA) vaccinated people and 1 640 371 (CPRD GOLD), 5 860 564 (CPRD AURUM), 2 588 518 (SIDIAP), and 302 267 (CORIVA) unvaccinated people were included. Compared with unvaccinated people, overall HRs for long COVID symptoms in people vaccinated with a first dose of any COVID-19 vaccine were 0·54 (95% CI 0·44-0·67) in CPRD GOLD, 0·48 (0·34-0·68) in CPRD AURUM, 0·71 (0·55-0·91) in SIDIAP, and 0·59 (0·40-0·87) in CORIVA. A slightly stronger preventative effect was seen for the first dose of BNT162b2 than for ChAdOx1 (sHR 0·85 [0·60-1·20] in CPRD GOLD and 0·84 [0·74-0·94] in CPRD AURUM). INTERPRETATION: Vaccination against COVID-19 consistently reduced the risk of long COVID symptoms, which highlights the importance of vaccination to prevent persistent COVID-19 symptoms, particularly in adults. FUNDING: National Institute for Health and Care Research.

Original publication

DOI

10.1016/S2213-2600(23)00414-9

Type

Journal article

Journal

Lancet respir med

Publication Date

11/01/2024