Covid symptoms differ by vaccination status: ZOE Health Study

Covid infections come with dozens of different potential symptoms, ranging from mild fatigue to weird ones like “Covid language”.

Which ones will you personally experience if you get infected soon? It depends on your vaccination status, suggests the ZOE Health Study, a joint project between health sciences company ZOE and researchers at King’s College London, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard and Stanford University.

The project recently shared an updated list of the top Covid symptoms reported by more than 4 million users of the ZOE Covid Study app, which tracks symptoms of the virus based on daily user input since 2020.

Here are the most commonly reported Covid symptoms among three vaccination groups – people who have completed their primary series, people with one two-dose vaccine and those who have not been vaccinated – ranked by how often they are reported.

Common symptoms of Covid-19 based on vaccination status

Ranked by prevalence among users of the ZOE Health Study app

They have completed their primary series of vaccinations

1. Sore throat

4. Persistent cough

2. A runny nose

5. Headache

Only have one dose of the Covid vaccine

2. A runny nose

5. Persistent cough

2. Sore throat

5. Persistent cough

Four of the five most commonly reported symptoms, including sore throat, runny nose, persistent cough, and headache, occurred in all three groups, but their prevalence varied. Unvaccinated people more often had a fever that did not appear in the five main symptoms of the other groups.

But your vaccination status can affect how many of these symptoms you experience at once. People who completed their primary series or received one dose of the vaccine reported fewer symptoms for a “shorter period of time” than unvaccinated people, the study said.

In a 2021 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, participants with one or two doses of the Covid vaccine had about a 60% lower risk of developing symptoms such as fever compared to unvaccinated people. Vaccinated participants spent an average of two to six total hospital days in bed compared to unvaccinated participants, the study also found.

The ZOE study pointed to one common finding in all three groups: a marked decline in “traditional” Covid symptoms from the original strain of the virus, such as shortness of breath and loss of smell.

Shortness of breath was ranked as the 29th most common symptom among those who completed their primary series and 30th among those who were not vaccinated.

Omicron may have something to do with that: Other research has found that the newer variant is less likely than previous strains of Covid to cause symptoms such as loss of taste or smell.

The ZOE study did not account for which variant of Covid caused the infections, how many were first-time Covid infections, whether a user received booster doses, patient demographics and the severity of people’s symptoms.

The inclusion of booster dose data could potentially alter the list of study symptoms and their potential duration for people who have completed their primary series of vaccines.

Protection from your last dose of vaccine declines significantly over time, meaning that some people in this study category may be well protected, while others may be closer to those who are only partially vaccinated or completely unvaccinated.

Your most effective defense against the virus now includes a new omicron-specific booster shot. It is more effective against today’s strains of Covid than the original vaccines and early evidence suggests it will boost your protective antibodies ahead of the coming viral surge this winter.

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