“Why don’t you just take Omicron and be done?” It’s sweet, isn’t it? And it can enhance immunity? “
The fully vaccinated, boosted and well-educated friend who asked was sincere, echoing opinions heard on many social platforms.
The idea of intentionally trying to catch Omicron is “all the rage,” said Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, with an exasperated sigh.
“It has spread like wildfire,” agreed Dr Robert Murphy, executive director of the Havey Institute for Global Health at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
“And it is widespread, coming from all types of people, the vaccinated and boosted and the anti-vaccines,” he added, with a warning. “You’d be crazy to try and get infected with this. It’s like playing with dynamite.”
In case the idea crossed your mind, here are five reasons why you shouldn’t deliberately try to catch Omicron.
1. It’s not a “bad cold”
High fever, body aches, swollen lymph nodes, sore throat and severe congestion are often reported even in the mildest cases of the Omicron variant, Murphy said, leaving people weak for days.
“People talk about Omicron like it’s a bad cold. It’s not a bad cold,” Murphy said. “It is a fatal disease.”
However, even people without any underlying health conditions can become seriously ill, Murphy said. “I have a vaccinated and boosted patient right now – over 65 with no underlying risk factors – who is in the hospital and is doing badly.”
It is true that if you catch the Omicron variant of Covid-19, as opposed to the Delta variant, “you are less likely to be hospitalized, less likely to go to intensive care (intensive care unit), less more likely to be put on a mechanical ventilator and less likely to die – and that’s true for all age groups, ”Offit said.
“But that doesn’t mean it can’t be a serious illness,” Offit added. “It’s just less serious. But you don’t have a 0% chance of dying. You should never want to be infected.”
2. You could become long Covid
“We’re still trying to figure out the long Covid,” Offit said. “Because we don’t understand it, I wouldn’t be so quick to want to get an infection from a natural virus.
“A natural virus is always called a wild type virus, and there’s a good reason for that: it’s out of control,” Offit said. “Never risk catching an infection from a natural virus.”
3. You spread the disease to children
This means that any risky behavior that could put you at risk for Omicron, such as not wearing a mask, not following social distancing guidelines, or congregating with crowds, especially indoors, will potentially expose other people who could then pass the virus on to their children.
Data from the American Academy of Pediatrics shows an upward trend in infections in children, which far exceeds “the peak of previous waves of the pandemic.”
“This number is a 78% increase from the 325,000 additional cases reported the week ending December 30 and almost triple the number of cases from the previous two weeks,” said the AAP.
“I would say the best way to protect these children is to vaccinate them because they are eligible and surround them with siblings and parents who are themselves vaccinated,” CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky said, at a press conference on Friday.
4. You will stress the health care system
By deliberately catching any variant of SARS-CoV-2, which is the official name for the new coronavirus, “you’re going to keep the pandemic going and stress the health care system,” Murphy said.
Additionally, HHS data revealed that intensive care units across the country are over 80% full, with almost 30% of beds being used to treat Covid-19 patients. Elective surgeries are being phased out and health officials fear the country’s health system may not be able to do its job.
“The healthcare system is not only designed to care for people with Covid. It is designed to support children with appendicitis and people who have heart attacks and car crashes,” said Dr Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, told CNN on Sunday.
“And this is all going to be a lot, a lot more difficult because we have a big part of the population that is not vaccinated, a lot of high risk people who are not boosted,” he added.
5. Don’t mess with Mother Nature
Has it ever been a good idea to catch an illness on purpose? Those of a certain age will remember the days when parents would throw “chickenpox parties” to expose their young children to an infected child. Since cases of chickenpox in adults are more serious, the idea was to get your child to catch it early to “get it over with.”
“Oh, that was a bad idea too,” Offit said. He told the story of an educational vaccine film he made years ago, and the cameraman revealed he had a sister who took her child to a chickenpox party. Tragically, the child died from the infection.
“Don’t mess with Mother Nature,” he said. “She’s been trying to kill us ever since we crawled out of the ocean on land.”