Survey: Record 2m people in UK have long COVID-19

In this Sept 3, 2021 file photo, pupils line up at a COVID-19 test station as they enter their new secondary school for the first time at Wales High school, Sheffield, England. (RUI VIEIRA / AP)

LONDON / JERUSALEM / BRASILIA / WASHINGTON – An estimated 2 million people in Britain have lingering COVID-19 symptoms more than four weeks after their initial coronavirus infection, a latest survey showed.

Based on the Office for National Statistics survey of people living in private households in Britain, an estimated 3.1 percent of the population were experiencing long COVID-19 symptoms as of May 1.

This is 200,000 more people than the ONS's previous estimated prevalence of 1.8 million, as of April 3.

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Of the estimated 2 million people with self-reported long COVID-19, 442,000 (22 percent) first had (or suspected they had) COVID-19 less than 12 weeks previously, 1.4 million people (72 percent) at least 12 weeks prior to their ongoing symptoms, 826,000 (42 percent) at least one year previously and 376,000 (19 percent) at least two years previously.

"We have seen cases of long COVID-19 due to the omicron BA.2 variant be at least as high as previous variants, despite not causing the same hospitalization rate," said David Strain, Clinical Senior Lecturer and Honorary Consultant of the University of Exeter Medical School.

Strain said that the most concerning figure in the survey however is the 376,000 people who have had the disease for over two years, noting this is only looking at the first four months of COVID-19 infections in Britain.

"This number will inevitably climb as all of those who caught COVID-19 in the second, third and fourth waves experience continued symptoms," Strain said. 

A man dressed as the Brazilian vaccine symbol takes part in a demonstration against Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on July 3, 2021. (MIGUEL SCHINCARIOL / AFP) 

Brazil

The Brazilian government plans to approve the application of the second booster dose against COVID-19 for people over 50 years old, Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga said Thursday.

"The second booster dose was authorized for those over 60 years old (in May), and will be extended to those over 50," he told the press from Brasilia, adding that details will be released in a technical note in the coming hours.

In approving the second booster dose, the Health Ministry recommended that it be administered four months after the first.

This comes at a time when the South American country is registering an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations, while states and municipalities are once again urging the use of masks in closed spaces.

To date, 166.1 million people (77.4 percent of the population) in Brazil are fully vaccinated, while almost 93 million have gotten at least one booster dose and 3.5 million two booster doses.  

A poster in the window of the Pfizer Pharmaceutical Company of Puurs, visible from the highway, lets motorists know that the company is hiring staff on November 10, 2020 in Puurs, Belgium. (JEAN-CHRISTOPHE GUILLAUME / BLOOMBERG)

Pfizer

Pfizer Inc's antiviral treatment Paxlovid reduces COVID-19 hospitalization and death rates in vaccinated and unvaccinated patients 65 years and older, according to a new study in Israel conducted during the rise of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

The treatment, however, was not found to prevent severe illness among younger adults, according to research from Clalit Health Services, Israel's largest healthcare provider.

Use of Pfizer's pills, authorized to treat newly infected, at-risk people in order to prevent severe illness, has soared in the United States along with a spike infections. Biden administration officials have pushed for wide use of Paxlovid, which the government purchased and provides free.

Pfizer's clinical trial tested Paxlovid in unvaccinated people who had risk factors for serious disease and found that the two-drug treatment cut the risk of hospitalization and death by 90 percent. That was during the Delta wave of the virus.

A 6 year-old child is comforted by her mother as she receives her first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine by a medical assistant at the Child Health Associates office in Novi, Michigan on Nov 3, 2021. (JEFF KOWALSKY / AFP)

US

The White House expects vaccinations of young children to begin in earnest as early as June 21, if federal authorities approve their use in coming weeks, White House COVID response coordinator Ashish Jha said on Thursday.

Jha told reporters that the US government had enough COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc to begin the program for young children if and when the vaccines are approved.

He said the federal government would make 10 million vaccines available to state and local authorities to start broad-based vaccinations of children under 5 years of age.

Pfizer and its partner BioNTech, on Wednesday completed their filing with the US Food and Drug Administration to seek authorization for their COVID-19 vaccine in young children.

No COVID-19 shot is yet approved for children in that age group in most parts of the world. It remains unclear how many parents will get their young ones vaccinated as demand has been low in kids aged 5 to 11.