Young COVID-19 ‘long haulers’ promote vaccine in new ad campaign

A new campaign ad features the stories of young people suffering from long-term COVID-19 symptoms to promote the vaccine.

"Resolve to Save Lives" is an initiative of the global public health organization, Vital Strategies, according to its website. 

The webpage features various video testimonials of young people described as COVID-19 "long-haulers."

"Long COVID," or long haul COVID-19, refers to long-term symptoms that are experienced by patients weeks and sometimes months after initially contracting the disease. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said fatigue was the most common long-term symptom followed by shortness of breath, change in smell or taste, and cough and headache.

RELATED: CDC report: One third of COVID-19 patients report long-term symptoms

"I have a lot of debilitating nausea, dizziness and a racing heart. I can't comprehend words at times," 26-year old Isiah said in one video after getting COVID-19 in October 2020. 

"I used to be a healthy and strong member of the Air Force, but now I struggle to lift anything over five pounds," he continued. 

According to the CDC, more than 231 million Americans over the age of 5 have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, representing 74.1% of the demographic. 

However, U.S. and world health officials worry if a vaccine will be effective against the latest and any future coronavirus variants. 

RELATED: Omicron variant reignites COVID-19 fears around the world

On Friday, a World Health Organization panel named the latest variant "omicron" and classified it as a highly transmissible virus of concern, the same category that includes the predominant delta variant, which is still a scourge driving higher cases of sickness and death in Europe and parts of the United States.

Omicron’s actual risks are not fully understood yet. But early evidence suggests it carries an increased risk of reinfection compared with other highly transmissible variants, the WHO said. That means people who contracted COVID-19 and recovered could be subject to catching it again. It could take weeks to know if current vaccines are less effective against it.

Medical experts, including the WHO, warned against any overreaction before the variant was thoroughly studied. But a jittery world feared the worst after the tenacious virus triggered a pandemic that has killed more than 5 million people around the globe.

"We must move quickly and at the earliest possible moment," British Health Secretary Sajid Javid told lawmakers.

RELATED: Moderna testing 3 COVID-19 booster vaccines on omicron variant, Pfizer ready to adapt

"The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is authorized as a booster for many populations at the 50 µg dose level," Moderna wrote in its announcement. "The Company is working rapidly to test the ability of the current vaccine dose to neutralize the Omicron variant and data is expected in the coming weeks."

Pfizer, meanwhile, said if a variant ever evades the protection offered by its FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine Comirnaty, it expects to be able to produce a "tailor-made" vaccine against that variant in approximately 100 days, pending approval from federal regulators.

The concern also highlights the push for previous vaccine recipients to get a booster shot. 

RELATED: South Africa variant: WHO calls special meeting new COVID-19 mutation

The U.S. opened COVID-19 booster shots to all adults and took the extra step of urging people 50 and older to seek one, aiming to ward off a winter surge as coronavirus cases rise even before millions of Americans travel for the holidays.

Under the new rules, anyone 18 or older can choose either a Pfizer or Moderna booster six months after their last dose. For anyone who got the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the wait already was just two months. And people can mix-and-match boosters from any company.

The No. 1 priority for the U.S., and the world, still is to get more unvaccinated people their first doses. All three COVID-19 vaccines used in the U.S. continue to offer strong protection against severe illness, including hospitalization and death, without a booster.

But protection against infection can wane with time, and the U.S. and many countries in Europe also are grappling with how widely to recommend boosters as they fight a winter wave of new cases. In the U.S., COVID-19 diagnoses have climbed steadily over the last three weeks, especially in states where colder weather already has driven people indoors.

Austin Williams, Jordan Smith and the Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.