SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- You may have heard of the term “long hauler" when it comes to COVID-19 sufferers. It's when someone experiences long-term symptoms beyond the typical two weeks it takes to recover, but now, there's evidence that getting the vaccine may actually be helping these people.
It’s been over a year since Michael Mackan was first diagnosed with COVID-19. He was among the first to contract the virus in Massachusetts, but unfortunately, not among the first to recover.
“I went into a coma, my heart stopped twice, my left lung collapsed, my kidneys were medically shut down, and my body was going into septic shock and I had an eight percent chance of survival,” Mackan noted.
The Dorchester native did survive thanks to plasma donations. After a few weeks in the hospital and a rehabilitation center, he was welcomed home by family and friends with a parade. Now, more than a year later, he’s still dealing with lingering symptoms, like brain fog and fatigue.
“I’d be talking and all of a sudden, my brain would just freeze on what I was talking about,” Mackan added.
However, he recently got some relief after receiving his COVID-19 vaccines.
“I got my first dose on March 18 of the Pfizer and that just lifted that feeling of fogginess, lifted from me,” Mackan said.
This effect has been reported in a number of people with “long haul” symptoms. We spoke with Dr. Robert Roose, the chief medical officer at Mercy Medical Center, to learn more about the connection.
“It’s possible that after vaccination, with more antibodies now being generated to fight off proteins and the infection itself, that it may be neutralizing some lingering, if not virus, some lingering effects that’s been creating these symptoms,” Roose explained.
He told Western Mass News it’s too early to say if there’s a connection.
“I think it’s an interesting idea and I think it’s something that deserves more study about what sorts of immunological therapies may be appropriate for these ‘long-haulers’ in the future,” Roose noted.
However, we found “long haulers” are reporting different reactions from the vaccine. Peter Moore from Framingham said the first shot actually made his symptoms worse
“They haven’t allowed me to get the second one because it brought back all the neurological symptoms worse than they were before,” Moore said.
It’s something doctors are continuing to study.
“I’m not going to rule anything out. I think people are studying it now and it should be looked at if people are claiming they are better,” said Dr. Daniel Skiest, vice chair of the department of medicine at Baystate Health.
As for Mackan, he’s holding out hope that his “long haul” symptoms will come to an end.
“I feel pretty good…The vaccine really seemed to help with some of that long-haul disease,” Mackan said.
While health experts continue to study possible links, they recommend people who had COVID-19 still get the vaccine as doctors continue to figure out how long immunity lasts for both natural infection and vaccination.