Seven reasons why trying to get ‘COVID over with’ is a bad idea
With more than half of all Europeans predicted to be infected with COVID-19 in the next two months, and perceptions of it being mild, it might be tempting to think it’s better to get the infection over with. Here’s why that is a dangerous game to play.
- 20 January 2022
- 3 min read
- by Priya Joi
1. Hospitals will get overwhelmed
Even with a decoupling of the number of infections and number of people in hospital, hospitals and health systems are overwhelmed by Omicron as it is highly contagious and, in the face of easing restrictions, spreading like wildfire. This has a considerable knock-on effect as with capacity stretched (and many healthcare staff sick or quarantining themselves) the ability to treat any other illness has taken a huge dip.
While research is ongoing, it is definitely better to be safe than sorry.
2. If you’re unvaccinated, you are far more likely to die
The exact probability varies by country and other factors, but the likelihood of an unvaccinated person dying of COVID-19 is between 10 and 20 times higher than that of a vaccinated person. In high-income countries, not being vaccinated is a choice for most people, one that could prove fatal. For those who cannot be vaccinated due to pre-existing medical conditions or, as is the case in many low- and middle-income countries, a lack of access to vaccines, it is a choice they do not have the luxury to make.
3. Risk of reinfection is higher
Omicron’s ability to evade immunity means the risk of getting reinfected is higher – more than five times as likely than with Delta, according to UK data.
4. You can infect more vulnerable people
Even if you are asymptomatic or only have mild symptoms, if you’re infected you could pass it to someone else who is more vulnerable – a pregnant or older person for whom the consequences are much more severe. As Omicron is more contagious than any other variant, the risks of passing it on are high. The more the virus spreads, the more it has the chance to mutate. Although Omicron seems to cause fewer hospitalisations and deaths than Delta, if it continues to circulate we could see a new variant emerging that is far more severe.
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5. You could get very sick even if vaccinated
Many people seem to operate on the assumption that if they are vaccinated, they don’t need to worry. But Omicron is better at evading immunity from either vaccines or past infections than previous variants were. Although vaccination is still critical in preventing severe disease, there is no doubt that breakthrough infections can happen and no vaccine is 100% effective. There is no predicting how severe the disease will be or not.
6. You could get Long Covid
It’s not clear whether Omicron is more likely to lead to Long Covid or not, but the risk of developing this chronic condition after infection is very real and millions who developed it have still not recovered, months down the line.
7. Too many unknowns
This variant replicates in the upper respiratory tract and not in the lower respiratory tract as previous variants mostly did. It’s not yet clear what this might mean in the long term, says the World Health Organization. We still have a lot to learn about Omicron. While research is ongoing, it is definitely better to be safe than sorry.