“Just get it over with” does not come with guarantees

This past Wednesday morning health and biology research scientists joined National Public Radio reporter Rob Stein for an interesting discussion on the Omicron variant, its explosive ability to spread, and what that might mean going forward. I am adding emphasis to part of the interview that really stuck with me, as so much of the public’s “get it over with” attitude has pervaded the approach to this variant. You can listen to or read the entire interview here.

STEIN: Now, this might make some people think, well, sounds like I’m going to get it, and it could boost my immunity without a lot of risk, so why not just get it over with? But [Jeremy] Kamil [virologist at Louisiana State University] and others say, don’t even think about it [readily contracting Covid]. Get vaccinated and boosted. Even if omicron’s milder, it still can be really nasty – even deadly. And don’t forget about long COVID. Omicron’s going to inflict enough carnage. And many scientists caution it’s way too early to conclude with any certainty that we’ll be on the right road after omicron.

Michael Worobey studies evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona.

MICHAEL WOROBEY: I want to actually get away from any kind of narrative that omicron is some sort of silver lining. It’s irresponsible to suggest that there’s some sort of preordained progression of viruses like this toward becoming benign.

STEIN: The next variant could just as easily be nastier and even better at outsmarting our immune systems. And any immunity we get from omicron could fade.

And Jeffrey Shaman [environmental health sciences] at Columbia says, just because something is endemic doesn’t always mean it’s easier to live with.

JEFFREY SHAMAN: It’s very difficult to say, well, it’s going to settle into a seasonal pattern, be much milder, and we’re not going to have to worry about it; we’ll be able to get back to our lives. I would love that. That would be great. But I just don’t know if it will happen.

STEIN: So in the meantime, says Harvard epidemiologist William Hanage, the country needs to double down and do everything possible to blunt the damage as omicron tears across the nation.