With the pandemic coming up on its 2-year anniversary, the ironic question more people are contemplating with this less deadly version of the virus is - "Should I intentionally get Omicron?” Since it's likely not going to just vanish out of existence, people are ready for COVID to be endemic, where it's seasonal, infects fewer people at a time and hopefully is milder in severity on average. But to get there takes multiple waves and reinfections so that more people gain immunity and so that immunity can last between seasonal outbreaks.
So, with COVID on its way to endemicity and all of us along for the ride, the vaccinated and unvaccinated alike have begun to wonder if infection with this highly contagious -but milder omicron variant- can help get us there sooner and give us some protection against future variants that could be worse.
Despite 62.6% of Americans being fully vaccinated and 3 previous COVID waves, a record-breaking nearly 1.4 million new COVID cases were reported to the CDC in a single day this week.
BioNTech's CEO, Ugur Sahin, has commented that even people who are triple-vaccinated can transmit COVID and that the vaccine is now 70 to 75% effective against Omicron, down from the 95% effectiveness achieved against the original strain.
Natural infection with SARS-CoV-2 is also thought to provide better defenses to the mucous membranes in the nose and throat, the virus's natural point of entry, that vaccination in the arm muscle can't, along with better knowledge for combating the virus since it recognizes other components than the spike protein alone targeted by vaccines.
It's clear that mother nature has a mind of her own. And, unfortunately, that's the same caveat with natural infection, that nature is never entirely predictable, and despite being a milder version and vaccines said to decrease symptom severity on average, nothing is guaranteed. Everyone responds differently to a virus, so what is mild to one person may be catastrophic to another, even if the odds are against severe disease. Long COVID is also a potential risk for anyone who's been infected, regardless of their vaccination status.
Plus, no one is sure how well immunity from Omicron will protect against future strains. Some people who get infected with Omicron may only have a modest bump in protection.
Take home message: take precautions, be sanitary, isolate when sick or after a known exposure and do not intentionally get sick if you can help it. The immune system's response to an infection can be a gamble, even with milder viruses.