Background: Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, most research has focused on the pathophysiology and management of the acute symptoms of COVID-19, yet some people tend to experience symptoms beyond the acute phase of infection, that is, Post COVID-19 condition (PCC). However, evidence on the long-term health impacts of a COVID-19 infection are still scarce. The purpose of this paper is to describe the COVIMPACT study, which aims to set up a cohort of people who have been tested positive for COVID-19 and study the evolution of their physical, mental and social health over the medium (3 months) and long term (two years), and the factors associated with an (un) favorable evolution.
Methods: COVIMPACT is a longitudinal cohort study organised over a two-years period between April 2021 and April 2023. The eligible population is all people aged 18 years and older, living in Belgium, with a recent COVID-19 infection and contacted by the health authorities for contact tracing. Two questionnaires are used: a baseline questionnaire that aims to assess the initial health status of the participants and their status during the acute phase of the illness, and a follow-up questionnaire that is sent every three months after participants enter into the cohort. A matched non-COVID-19 control group was also selected. As of November 1, 2021, 10,708 people completed the baseline questionnaire (5% of the eligible population) and the follow-up participation rate was 79%. In total, 48% of the cohort participants appeared to ft the proposed case defnition of PCC (i.e. report at least one symptom related to their COVID-19 infection three months afterwards).
Discussion: This study was designed to provide timely information on the short and long term impact of a COVID19 infection, to stakeholders such as policymakers, health practitioners and people with PCC. Although the follow-up participation rate was good (79%), the participation rate of the eligible population was low (5%). Compared to other studies, this study has a large sample, of non-hospitalised and hospitalised people, who will be followed over a long period of 3 months to two years post infection, and with a global approach to their health.