Well-Being Prevention & Cures

People should not try to intentionally catch omicron, experts say

People wait in line at COVID-19 testing site in Times Square on Dec. 3, 2021, in New York. The fast-moving omicron variant may cause less severe disease on average, but COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. are climbing and modelers forecast 50,000 to 300,000 more Americans could die by the time the wave subsides in mid-March.… Associated Press

Story at a glance

  • With omicron outbreaks happening all over the country, some people have discussed contracting it intentionally or assuming that everyone will get it eventually anyway.
  • Health experts say that this approach is risky.
  • An omicron sub-variant has been reported in three countries.

As omicron has been increasing around the country, some people may consider intentionally becoming infected with the variant. Others who got it unintentionally are expressing relief that it’s over with. Health experts warn that people should not seek out the omicron variant and that vaccines, including booster shots, provide immunity without the associated risks of catching coronavirus. 

People who are trying to get omicron may believe that it is mild, although there is still new data coming out about the variant on that front. Health experts have been stressing in recent days that omicron is not necessarily “mild,” although the word has been used a lot especially in media and news outlets. Someone infected with the omicron variant may have a lower chance of severe illness, “but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be a severe illness,” Paul Offit, who is director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told CNN. “It’s just less severe. But you don’t have a 0% chance of dying. You should never want to get infected.” 

Doctors are still seeing patients hospitalized with the omicron variant, even in people without underlying conditions. There’s also the possibility of “long COVID-19,” which could affect health for an extended period of time with symptoms like brain fog and fatigue. 

“People don’t know if they’re going to [be one] of the folks who are able to endure an infection with few long-term consequences,” Laolu Fayanju, who is regional medical director for Oak Street Health in Ohio, told Time 

Our country is in a historic fight against the coronavirus. Add Changing America to your Facebook or Twitter feed to stay on top of the news.

Another reason to not intentionally contract omicron is that you could spread the virus to others. This could increase the burden on already overwhelmed health care systems and prolong outbreaks. There’s also the vulnerable group of children under 5 years old who are not yet eligible to get vaccinated. 

Additionally, if the virus is circulating longer in the community, that gives it more opportunity to mutate and develop into a new strain. There have already been some reports of an omicron sub-variant currently called BA2 in IsraelIndia and the U.K. 

While about 63 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, vaccines are available and the better alternative to getting infected, experts say. “

The risk-to-benefit calculation here is very clear to me,” Akiko Iwasaki, who is an immunologist at the Yale University School of Medicine and studies viral immunity, told Time. “The risk is so much higher than whatever benefit you might reap.”