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COVID research highlights vaccine inequalities, and the needs of young people and victim-survivors with long COVID

Recent publications highlight the needs of young people with long COVID, links between long COVID and violence within relationships, and concerns about under-vaccination, reports Alison Barrett.


Alison Barrett writes:

Young people with long COVID feel that many services – including healthcare and education – are failing them, according to an essay in The Lancet: Children and Adolescent Health this week.

In the essay, Sanjana Jaidka and Eden Byrne – aged 19 and 20, who developed long COVID in the UK more than two years ago – wrote they have experienced many challenges accessing support and healthcare, including being dismissed by doctors about their symptoms.

“The lack of awareness and compassion affects our physical and mental health, escalating symptoms further, and is having a detrimental impact on our recovery,” they wrote.

Additionally, Jaidka and Byrne said they have been considered “too young to have long COVID” and too old to access paediatric services.

The pair – who are volunteers for the Long COVID Kids charity – called for improved communication between health services and education providers, more research into long COVID in children, and support created in collaboration with young people.

While based in the UK, some of the experiences they report resonate with some of those appearing in Australia’s Inquiry into long COVID and repeated COVID infections, including patients being dismissed by practitioners, as well as calls for more research into long COVID in children and adolescents.

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) last month urged federal, state and territory governments to do more to address long COVID, and a policy brief by the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association’s Deeble Institute for Health Policy Research also urged governments to lift their game on long COVID.

Intimate partner violence and long COVID

Victim-survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV) experienced changes to frequency, severity and type of violence following a diagnosis of long COVID, according to new research by Professor Kate Fitz-Gibbon and colleagues at Monash University, exploring the intersections between long COVID and IPV.

Additionally, the research found that one-quarter of the 28 participants experienced partner abuse for the first time in their relationship following their long COVID diagnosis.

Given evidence of increased experiences of IPV during the pandemic, and prevalence of IPV among women with chronic health conditions, it is important research that should inform policy responses to support victim-survivors, the researchers say.

“Intimate partner violence is the number one risk factor contributing to the disease burden for Australian women aged 18 to 44 years old – greater than alcohol, tobacco and illicit drug use,” Fitz-Gibbon said in a statement.

“If the recovery and healing of all victim-survivors is to be better supported, increasing awareness about the risk and recovery needs of victim-survivors with long COVID experiencing abuse must be an integral piece of the National Plan’s [to End Violence against Women and Children] focus on recovery and healing.”

Victim-survivor participants with long COVID reported via an anonymous survey that perpetrators often weaponised their health conditions and increased coercive controlling behaviours.

The research also explored help-seeking behaviours and the impact of long COVID on access to services and support, finding that for some of the victim-survivors, services were hard to access.

While the study involved small numbers, and conclusions should not be made about causation, it provides valuable information about the experiences of victim-survivors with long COVID.

Read the full report, Disconnected and Insecure: the intersection between experiences of long COVID and intimate partner violence and an article by the authors in The Conversation.

Undervaccination and severe COVID-19 outcomes

Younger people, as well as people from more deprived backgrounds and of non-White ethnicity are less likely to be fully vaccinated in the United Kingdom, according to new research by the HDR UK COALESCE Consortium.

In line with other COVID-19 vaccination studies, the Consortium – a study that provides information to governments about COVID-19 vaccine uptake and outcomes – also found that undervaccination was associated with an elevated risk of severe outcomes from COVID, highlighting the importance of improving equitable vaccine coverage in order to improve equitable COVID outcomes.

The research team analysed electronic health data from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and defined full vaccination as having received the standard vaccine schedule by as recommended by UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation:

  • One dose for 5-11 year olds
  • Two doses for 12-15 year olds
  • Three for 16-74 year olds
  • Four for people 75 years and older.

‘Undervaccinated’ was defined as not receiving the above recommended schedule.

While the study has limitations including – but not limited to – area-based deprivation measures not fully reflecting individual-levels of socioeconomic status, it provides valuable information that could be used to inform further research in identifying barriers to vaccine uptake.

Also see Peter Breadon’s recent article on inequalities and COVID.

From Twitter

Read Dr Maria Van Kerkhove’s thread here.


See Croakey’s extensive archive of articles on COVID

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