Friday, Mar 15, 2024

Community Health Workers Are Essential Partners to Raising Awareness of Long COVID's Significant Public Health Burden

Francesca CeddiaChief Medical Affairs Officer, Moderna


The World Health Organization (WHO) has defined Long COVID as the continuation or development of new symptoms three months after the initial SARS-CoV-2 infection, with these new symptoms lasting for at least two months. Long COVID may not affect everyone in the same way. Fatigue, cough, chest pain and shortness of breath are some of the more frequent symptoms, but there is a wide range of health problems and outcomes that may persist, resolve and reemerge over different lengths of time. These can range from neurological symptoms, to changes in smell or taste, to digestive symptoms. 

Today, as many as 16 million Americans are living with Long COVID, and experts are still learning about the long-term impact it can have on the body’s organ systems. Currently, there is no approved therapy to specifically treat this condition, and the only way to help prevent Long COVID is to avoid becoming infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

There is a lot we don’t understand about Long COVID – but let’s focus on what we do know. Like many other diseases, Long COVID disproportionately impacts people of color, which could be due in part to a lack of access to information about its risks and methods of prevention. We also know that staying up to date with your COVID-19 vaccine can help protect against Long COVID. Research suggests there is a strong association between receiving the COVID-19 primary vaccination series and a reduced risk of receiving a diagnosis of Long COVID, even if one subsequently develops SARS-CoV-2 infection. However, according to the CDC, only 21% of Americans are up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines as of February 4, 2024.

At Moderna, our aim is to empower healthcare providers with accurate information and insights about public health issues like Long COVID so they can have evidence-based conversations with patients. Doing so requires us to prioritize partnerships that allow us to stand on the shoulders of organizations that are well-trusted and regarded as reputable sources of health information. Community health workers are a prime example of this and their insights make these messages more authentic to communities that may be disproportionately impacted by Long COVID.

As both the private and public health sector look to address the public health threat of Long COVID and close gaps in access to information, community health workers will remain an important resource to raise awareness about how to reduce risk. These workers, which have been referred to as the “new frontline,” specialize in getting to know patients as people in a comfortable setting that inspires confidence – which is important when it comes to improving access to information, and ultimately, patient care.


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