"Long COVID can happen to anyone who has had COVID-19, even if the illness was mild, or they had no symptoms," the CDC says on its website

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Andy Slavitt
Andy Slavitt
| Credit: Shari L. Gross/Star Tribune via Getty Images

A senior advisor to President Joe Biden is opening up about his teenage son's long-term battle with COVID-19 in an effort to encourage other young people to get vaccinated.

"Last fall, one of my sons contracted COVID-19," said Andy Slavitt, Biden's senior advisor on the pandemic. "Unfortunately, he is one of the many Americans battling long-term symptoms."

Health officials remain baffled by some COVID patients who experience long-term effects from the illness, which has infected more than 33 million and killed 586,824 people in the U.S. since last year, according to a New York Times tracker.

The CDC says "Long COVID" can last weeks or months after someone is infected and can even appear weeks after contracting the virus. 

"Long COVID can happen to anyone who has had COVID-19, even if the illness was mild, or they had no symptoms," the CDC says, adding that it can include symptoms ranging from tiredness and fatigue, to difficulty breathing and headaches, to loss of taste and smell.

Slavitt, 54, described his son during Tuesday's COVID-19 briefing as "young and fit and in the prime of his life."

"But six months later, he still suffers from tachycardia, shortness of breath, and ongoing and frequent flu-like symptoms," Slavitt said. "His hands are cold to the touch."

Slavitt warned that "many young people are in this situation, and many, many have it worse."

"I know it's easy when you're young to imagine that these things don't affect you: a vaccine may feel unnecessary, you feel healthy, you know people who had COVID and they're doing alright," Slavitt said. "But we are still learning about the long-term effects of COVID."

The Biden adviser said the U.S. has enough vaccines for all eligible Americans to receive a shot, saying the vaccine is both safe and proven to be effective.

"These vaccinations are essential," Slavitt said. "However, if you are unvaccinated, you are at risk — regardless of your age. According to the CDC, more than 3 million kids under 17 have contracted COVID-19."

Slavitt told young Americans to get vaccinated and said their generation has "the power to help your country and the world for the better right now" by inoculating themselves from the virus and helping slow its spread.

"Even though it's rare for kids to get severely ill from COVID-19, it could happen," Slavitt said. "So let's prevent that."

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