COVID long-haulers hope for relief after vaccination — and some get it

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Some COVID-19 "long-haulers" say their condition has improved after receiving the vaccine. Long-haulers are people who report having lingering symptoms of the virus many months after infection.

Brent Boschetti of Los Angeles says he is one of them. He became sick with the coronavirus in early March 2020. The active 44-year-old was never hospitalized but experienced extreme fatigue, muscle aches, loss of taste and smell, and brain fog. He even started having heart palpitations in April. 

"It's just so scary when you're in it," Boschetti said," because you just never know if you're going to feel like a normal, healthy person again." 

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He said he didn't feel back to 90% until November. Then he got vaccinated on Feb. 3 of this year.

"It was like, oh my gosh, it all cleared up," he said. "Whatever that lingering piece was, it just knocked it out. It was like the best I've felt in over a year."

Boschetti is a member of Survivor Corps, a growing network of over 150,000 COVID-19 survivors aimed at educating those affected by the pandemic, donating blood plasma, and partnering with the scientific community. Founder Diana Berrent, a New Yorker, was one of the first people in the United States to test positive.

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"It never occurred to me that there would be millions and millions to follow," Berrent said. "We had created this inner hazmat suit in our bodies that we could share with others by donating our plasma and by sharing our stories and being partners with the scientific community.

Last summer, Berrent was hospitalized after a full symptomatic relapse. She didn't notice a difference after receiving her vaccine this year and said that Survivor Corps prepared for the worst with the rollout of vaccines.

"We were prepared to track every terrible thing that could happen," Berrent said. "It never occurred to us in a million years that people would actually be finding relief from their symptoms."

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In fact, a Survivor Corps poll reported that 41% of long-haulers reported improvement of symptoms — anywhere from slight improvement to full symptomatic resolution — after getting vaccinated and 14% felt worse, Berrent said. Fatigue and brain fog are the most common symptoms to improve among Survivor Corps members, she added. 

"We were so scared that it might actually make things worse," Boschetti. "But it's amazing that it's helping so many people."