Covid-19 & ME/CFS: Infection, Vaccines, & Long Covid by Dr Charles Shepherd

May 6, 2021


Dr Charles Shepherd, Hon. Medical Adviser, ME Association 

Introduction 

Having endured all the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic for well over a year, we are now in a position where the country is slowly returning to some form of normal life.  

This is mainly due to the rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines that are turning out to be highly effective. COVID-19 has caused practical, emotional and financial problems for many people with ME/CFS, especially for those living alone.  

On the other hand, many of the restrictions on work, social activities and travel may not have made very much difference to these aspects of life if you have ME/CFS. 

With Lockdown restrictions being steadily eased, and an end to many of the stricter rules planned for mid-June, now seems a good time to review all the key issues relating to COVID-19 that affect people with ME/CFS. 

The current situation 

At the moment there is plenty of positive news around – certainly here in the UK. The vast majority of the population should be vaccinated against COVID-19 by July. Cases of COVID-19, deaths from COVID-19, and hospital admissions have all been falling quite dramatically since mass vaccination started and are now at very low levels. 

However, COVID-19 is not going to go away. The chances are that the virus will remain active at low levels, probably with periodic spikes or surges, and many experts are forecasting that will see another smaller spike in the Autumn.  

Worryingly, there are still many parts of the world, especially India and South America, where levels of infection remain very high. Mutations in the genetic coding of the virus are occurring all the time resulting in new variants, where current vaccines may not provide adequate levels of protection. So it’s not possible to say that there won’t be another more serious wave of infection here in the UK – even if very high levels of vaccination have been achieved.  

And we still have a very important part of the population who are not being vaccinated – children and young people up to the age of 16. Hopefully, the clinical trials that are now taking place will confirm that adolescents, and possibly younger children, can also be safely vaccinated against COVID-19 and that this group will be vaccinated before the end of 2021. 

Continuing vigilance is therefore going to be required for many months to come… 

More information 

  • Please visit the Free Covid Resources section of the MEA website.  
  • We will be publishing a new and comprehensive booklet on Long Covid & ME/CFS Management in the next couple of days. 

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