BIDMC launched a new program, the Critical Illness and COVID-19 Survivorship Program, to provide clinical care for COVID long haulers and investigate why they continue to feel symptoms long after the days or weeks that represent a typical course of the disease. Harvard Gazette spoke with Jason Maley, MD (Pulmonary, BIDMC), who leads the program, about the program, what’s known about the condition, and what awaits discovery.
Dan Barouch, MD, PhD (Center for Virology and Vaccine Research, BIDMC) said the pause shows a “commitment to safety” as federal agencies investigate the cases of potentially rare blood clotting in six Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients.
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals said that a single administration of its monoclonal antibody cocktail reduced the risk that volunteers exposed to COVID-19 would develop the disease by 81 percent. Dan Barouch, MD, PhD (Center for Virology and Vaccine Research, BIDMC),who partnered with Johnson & Johnson for the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, is an investigator in Regeneron’s study and noted the antibodies approaches are complementary.
As growing evidence suggests that brain and nervous-system problems are prevalent among “long-haulers,” the estimated 10 to 30 percent of COVID-19 survivors who remain ill months after their infection, BIDMC’s Critical Illness and COVID-19 Survivorship Program is the most comprehensive post-COVID clinic in New England. Jason Maley, MD (Pulmonary, BIDMC) directs the program and said the group is seeing 10 to 15 new patients a week and is fully booked for months. Tamara Fong, MD (Neurology, BIDMC) said long-haulers’ symptoms often resemble a post-concussion syndrome. But unlike with a concussion, it’s not clear whether the brain suffered a direct injury.
In a study conducted during the early days of the pandemic, scientists reported in The Annals of Neurology that nearly 10 percent of COVID-19 patients who experienced cognitive symptoms and were hospitalized during the early days of the pandemic experienced nonconvulsive seizure. The study was co-authored by Mouhsin Shafi, MD (Neurology, BIDMC) who noted only the sickest patients were monitored with EEG at the beginning of the pandemic and it’s not clear how common EEG abnormalities may have been in other patients.
Providing vaccines in the in-patient setting is a concern many hospitals face due to limited supplies and logistics. Sharon Wright, MD, MPH (Infection Protection, BILH) spoke to the approach BILH is taking to address this challenge for patients who received their first vaccine dose in the outpatient setting, and become eligible for their second dose during an inpatient stay at one of our hospitals.
Special clinics in Boston help “COVID long-haulers” – patients who struggle with lasting COVID-19 symptoms for weeks and months. Jason Maley, MD (Pulmonary, BIDMC), who leads theCritical Illness and COVID-19 Survivorship Program at BIDMC,noted patients improve over time and at their own pace, and there is potential for symptom improvement after vaccination – but most data is still anecdotal at this time.
Dan Barouch, MD, PhD (Center for Virology and Vaccine Research, BIDMC), who helped develop the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, spoke to the vaccine planning process and how, in some ways, the discovery of the virus with pandemic potential was a moment Barouch and team had been preparing for decades.
After a shortened 2020 season filled with grief and isolation amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the first pitches of Opening Day 2021 at Fenway Park on Friday afternoon were thrown out by new Boston Mayor Kim Janey, Cpl. Shamar Martin of the Army National Guard, and Edward Ullman, MD (Emergency Medicine, BIDMC). Ullman has overseen the first aid room at Fenway Park for 18 years, but he treated more than 1,000 COVID-19 patients as an attending physician in the BIDMC Emergency Department. He also oversaw the mass COVID-19 vaccination site at the Boston ballpark, which administered more than 56,000 doses of the vaccine.