6 reasons not to get omicron right now : Shots


Keith Bishop / Getty Images


Keith Bishop / Getty Images

Millions of people test positive for COVID-19 in the United States each week and the Food and Drug Administration warns that most Americans will contract the virus at some point. With mounting evidence that the omicron variant is likely to cause milder disease, some people may be thinking: Why not encourage omicron to infect us so we can enjoy life again?

This is not a good idea for many reasons, infectious disease experts and doctors say. Don’t throw your mask away and don’t even think about hosting a ’70s-style, Omicron-style chickenpox party. this is the reason:

1. You can get sicker than you want to

Dr. Ashish Jha, MD, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, said on All Things Considered. “I’m not sure why you need to look for that.”

While omicron appears to cause milder illness for many people, “the reality is that it’s probably somewhere between what you think of as colds or flu and the COVID we’ve had before,” says Dr. Emily Landon, MD, an infectious disease physician at UChicagoMedicine. “And there is still a lot of risk of contracting COVID.”

And of course, if you have any risk factors that put you in the vulnerable category, including age, you can still get very sick.

Even if you get a very mild case, you will miss out on life during isolation.

2. Can you spread the virus to vulnerable people

When you get COVID, you can inadvertently pass it on to others before you develop symptoms. You might expose your family, roommates, co-workers, or random people at the grocery store, says epidemiologist Bill Miller of Ohio State University.

“While you may have made a conscious decision to allow yourself to be exposed and infected, these people did not make the same choice,” he says. And they may have a higher level of risk than you.

You forced your decision on others, Miller says, and that decision can cause serious illness or even death.

Or you can spread it to a child who is still too young to be vaccinated, says Dr. Jodi Guzman-Cottrell, associate professor of pediatrics at Oregon Health & Science University. “Across the country and in my state, we are seeing more and more sick children hospitalized with COVID pneumonia, diphtheria, and bronchiolitis,” she says.

3. Your immunity will last for months – not years

Unlike chickenpox, having a COVID-19 infection isn’t a jail-free exit ticket for long.

Jeffrey Townsend, professor of developmental biology and biostatistics at the Yale School of Public Health, explains that key things affect how well we protect our immunity. First, antibody levels: Once you get an injection, a booster dose, or an infection, your antibody levels go up, and you’re less likely to get sick. Unfortunately, these levels do not remain high.

Second, the changing nature of the pathogen: As the virus evolves and variants emerge, our dwindling antibodies may not be able to accurately target new variants of the virus. Omicron is a prime example of a virus that has mutated to be able to continue to infect us – this is what the term immune evasion indicates.

So how long does the infection buy you?

While it is difficult to answer accurately, Townsend’s team estimates that infection can occur somewhere between three months and five years after infection, with an average of 16 months. This is based on analysis of data from previous coronavirus antibodies,

“At three to 16 months of age, you should be aware,” he says. “The clock is ticking again.”

4. It can add to the health care system crisis

Miller says that given that hospitalizations are at the height of the epidemic, and hospital and staff resources are overstretched in many areas, your infection may add to the stress.

“Your decision to allow yourself to get infected can lead to a chain of infection, often unknowingly, resulting in more people needing to stay in the hospital,” Miller says.

Not only are health care workers stressed and overwhelmed right now, patients with other health issues are being turned away and even dying due to the influx of COVID patients.

Contributing to that would be socially irresponsible, Landon says: “You don’t want it hanging over your head in terms of karma.”

5. If you get sick now, you may not be able to access treatments that are still limiteds

Injections of monoclonal antibodies, among the most effective treatments for preventing serious illness from COVID, are not currently available.

“We can’t save people as much as we can when we had deltas because we don’t have that many monoclonal antibodies,” Landon says. “We’re completely out of stock [Sotrovimab] We don’t know when another shipment will arrive at our hospital.”

Other hospitals have reported a similar shortage of monoclonal antibodies that have been shown to be effective against Omicron.

It’s the same problem with newer antiviral medicines like Paxlovid, Pfizer’s medicine that must be given within the first few days of symptoms in order for it to be most effective. Landon says supplies at her hospital are limited. “It’s not available to most people right now,” she says.

The future likely holds better treatments, Jha told NPR, too. “We will get more treatments over time. So anything we can do to delay more infections – it may be inevitable, but there is no reason to do it now.”

6. Chances of getting COVID are not ruled out for a long time after omicron

Omicron hasn’t been around long enough for us to know if it might cause a prolonged COVID in the same way that previous variants have. Vaccination reduces the risk of COVID for a long time, Landon says, “but we don’t know anything about how it works in omicron.”

We know that some people with mild infections stay infected with the COVID virus for a long time, she says. Miller adds that many healthy people end up with COVID symptoms that last for weeks or months.

“We don’t know, yet, how long COVID will be with omicron – but I would argue it’s not worth the chance,” he says.

So in conclusion…

Experts agree: Omicron parties are out.

Although it may seem inevitable, “it’s still beneficial to avoid getting COVID if you can,” says Landon.

So why were chickenpox parties any different?

“Having an omicron variant isn’t the same as having chickenpox — it doesn’t provide lifelong immunity,” Guzman-Cottrell says.

Even with chickenpox, people who have contracted the disease have a chance of contracting shingles later in life, says Ali Mokdad, chief population health strategist at the University of Washington, while people who get vaccinated do not.

Without knowing the long-term effects of COVID, whether it’s delta or omicron, he says, “it’s best to get our immunity through a vaccine.”

Avoiding infection can help protect us all, says Guzman-Cottrell: “Allowing this virus to continue spreading does one thing: It gives the virus a chance to mutate further. I think it’s safe to say that no one wants to see another new type of anxiety in the world.” 2022″.

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