Dr. Jessica Kiss, a family medicine physician in Southern California, responded to countless Question about COVID-19 under her TikTok handle @AskDrMom during the pandemic. But one of the most surprising things that came on January 3, this also happened was a record-breaking day for new cases in the US: “Should you deliberately take Omicron?”
While most people have spent the past two years desperately trying to avoid COVID-19, some are now contemplating doing just the opposite. Their erroneous logic reflects that behind chickenpox party, where parents intentionally expose their children to the virus to infect them “in their own way” and kick in immunity.
But as Kiss said on TikTok, “It wasn’t a good idea then, and it’s not now.”
Omicron is so contagious that many people, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, will become infected during this wave. On January 3, more than a million people in the US were diagnosed with COVID-19, leading some experts and members of the public to conclude that it may not be possible to hide the virus forever. Breakthrough infections have become common, and for those who are fully vaccinated and boosted, they can be quite mild.
However, experts say actively trying to infect is not wise for anyone. Laolu Fayanju, regional medical director of Oak Street Health in Ohio, says it’s an unnecessary gamble for people who are fully vaccinated, and for those who aren’t, it’s like play “Russian roulette with an automatic pistol”.
Akiko Iwasaki, an immunobiologist at Yale University School of Medicine who studies viral immunity, says there are some problems with this approach. First, there is no way to predict how severe a COVID-19 case will be. Second, vaccines and boosters already provide strong protection. And third, any infection can cause a domino effect, affecting others in potentially devastating ways.
“The risk-benefit calculation here is very clear to me,” says Iwasaki. “The risk is a lot higher than any benefit you can reap.”
Hitherto, data proposal that people infected by the Omicron variant are less likely to be hospitalized than those infected by previous strains of COVID-19 and those receiving care doesn’t seem to be sick as patients in previous episodes. That seems to be because Omicron less likely to cause serious lung damage.
But even if Omicron were to be milder than other variants, it would still be catastrophic for some. On January 3 alone, more than 1,400 people in the US died from COVID-19 and more than 100,000 people were hospitalized with the virus. The unvaccinated, elderly and medically vulnerable are most at risk, but there is no 100% guarantee for anyone. There is also no way to tell if you are exposed to the Omicron variant compared to the Delta variant that is still circulating and more severe, because non-discriminatory consumer testing between different strains.
Another concern is Long COVID, the name for symptoms including fatigue, brain fog, shortness of breath, and more that persists after an acute episode of COVID-19 goes into remission. Even mild cases can lead to long-term COVID. And while studies have shown that vaccination significantly reduces the risk of contracting COVID Long after infection, there is still the possibility that develop conditions after a breakout case.
“People don’t know if they will [be one] Fayanju said. There’s no reason to knowingly take that risk, he said.
But what about the idea that recovering from COVID-19 could provide “super immune“For those who are fully vaccinated? It is true that each encounter with COVID-19 has the potential to induce some degree of natural immunity, and mixing those defenses with vaccination seems to yield a stronger response. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that “vaccinating individuals who have been previously infected significantly enhances their immune response and effectively reduces the risk of subsequent infection.”
Another subjects suggests that people who become ill after vaccination also enjoy immune privileges. Recently research letter found that a small group of fully vaccinated (but not vaccinated) people experienced a spike in antibodies after recovering from breakthrough infections, and another group Small, not peer-reviewed study found that both vaccinated and unvaccinated people with Omicron infections gained some protection against the Delta variant.
These benefits are silver lining for people who accidentally get sick, but Iwasaki says it’s not necessary to look for infection to find an immune bump; You can get the same benefits from vaccines and boosters, which have been shown to be safe and effective. Plus, natural immunity declines over time and there’s no guarantee that using Omicron will protect you from the next unspecified variant that may be on the horizon. “We know that the enhancer produces pretty strong antibodies, even against Omicron,” says Iwasaki. “Why not get your immunity that way?”
One of the most important reasons not to intentionally contract COVID-19 is the burden it places on our vulnerable and laid-off healthcare workers. Every person who gets sick with COVID-19 can infect others, including medically vulnerable people. too young to be vaccinated or unprotected. If a few people get the disease on purpose, potentially triggering a chain of transmission, “it has the potential to just explode in numbers and then destroy an already overcrowded and overwhelmed healthcare system.” ours,” said Fayanju.
At the thought of the situation getting worse because people want to get sick, he said, “chills down my spine.”