Jan. 13, 2022 — As Omicron’s COVID-19 cases appear to hit new records every other day in the United States, speculation is mounting among some experts and scientific novices alike that infection seems inevitable for many.

In a Senate hearing on Tuesday, Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, MD, even told the panel, “Most people are going to get COVID.”

In mid-December, World Health Organization director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD said vaccines alone would not protect us from Omicron. In late December, an epidemiologist told BBC News: ‘We have to be realistic; we will not stop Omicron.”

Now posts are popping up on social media reviving ideas similar to chickenpox parties where you intentionally mingle with infected people. A restaurant in Italy is charging $150 for a chance not only to have good wine with dinner, but also to have COVID-19.

So, if everyone is very likely to get infected, why not listen to the chatter out there, just intentionally get infected and get it over with?

Because it’s a really bad idea, public health experts say.

“No, it’s not inevitable that everyone will get an Omicron infection,” said Greg Poland, MD, professor of medicine and infectious diseases at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science in Rochester, MN, and editor-in-chief of the journal Vaccine. “There may well be higher infection rates and high exposure rates, but people who are vaccinated, boosted and wearing a mask have a very high chance of protecting themselves from infection.”

Infection requires a chain of events that is not inevitable, he says.

“I think it’s spreading like crazy,” says Dr. Aaron Glatt, chief of infectious diseases and hospital epidemiologist at Mount Sinai South Nassau in Oceanside, NY. “It is highly contagious and will affect even those who are vaccinated and boosted.”

Still, he says, “There’s no way to say, ‘Everybody’s going to get it.'”

With overcrowded ICUs across the country and tests as hard to find as truffles, “it’s certainly not the time to throw our hands up in the air and say, ‘Everybody’s going to get it,'” says Omai B Garner, PhD, Director of Clinical Microbiology at UCLA Health System in California. It sends the wrong message, he says.

Saying that Omicron will affect us across the board “means we should stop fighting it,” he says. If that happens, he says, “you will endanger the immunocompromised and the unvaccinated people. This is still a very dangerous disease for people who are unvaccinated.”

And among the unvaccinated, Garner recalls, is “an entire population under the age of 5” for whom no COVID vaccine has yet been approved.

The get-it-on-purpose narrative

The idea of ​​intentionally catching COVID is also a fallacy, Poland says.

People can mistakenly assume that what they call “natural immunity” — and what he more accurately calls “disease-induced immunity” — will not have any ill effects, and that once infected, their immunity will be long-lived.

Another problem, Poland says, is the misunderstanding of what “milder” means when saying Omicron is generally milder than the Delta variant. If you are unvaccinated or undervaccinated and contract the Omicron variant, while the prognosis is better than Delta, you could still become very ill and die.

“I certainly wouldn’t recommend people going out and trying to get Omicron,” says Glatt. “If someone gets infected and recovers and is fine, that would boost immunity [from] some infection.” But “that means you have to get sick,” and that’s not a good idea.

The other misguided mindset, Poland says, is the assumption that experts already know everything there is to know about Omicron.

Not true, he says. He cites recent studies such as B. Newly published research from the CDC that found a higher risk of diabetes after children were infected with COVID-19.


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