The news over the past weeks has added to the evidence that Omicron is more contagious than any previous version of the Covid-19 virus.
According to the CDC, Omicron already accounts for about 75 percent of new cases in the US. Experts expect cases to continue to soar over the next month. The majority will be mild because many of us now have some degree of immune protection (and childhood COVID is usually mild). But Omicron may cause such a significant increase in cases that it will nonetheless overwhelm hospitals, many of which are already near capacity.
One potential problem is hospital staffing. According to recent data, one-third of all health care workers may contract COVID and need to miss work. As per the Whiter house about the surge, "The good news is it could be over quickly, and the bad news is that almost everything could face some kind of shortage."
The Power of Vaccines
The encouraging news about Omicron is that it does not appear to cause more severe illness than earlier versions of the virus. /A new study from Hong Kong, for example, found that Omicron replicated itself less efficiently than Delta inside the lungs, which could make it less likely to cause acute symptoms.
Either way, the crucial question for most people is not whether Omicron is less severe than earlier versions of the virus; the question is whether Omicron is more severe. So far, the answer is no. Unfortunately, some vaccinated people for whom any COVID case remains a threat are still in danger of hospitalizations. Those whose health is already vulnerable — like the elderly, people undergoing cancer treatments, people who have received organ transplants, and some other groups — can become extremely ill from a COVID. Their bodies are weak enough that any infection can cause significant problems. It's the same reason that the seasonal flu kills tens of thousands of Americans annually.
Q & A
1- How Soon Can I Get Vaccinated After Recovering From COVID-19?
- If you're unvaccinated and recovering from COVID-19 — whether the case is mild or more severe, the risk of reinfection is still significant.
- If you test positive for COVID-19, postpone getting vaccinated until your symptoms have resolved and you've met the criteria for discontinuing isolation. The criteria for ending isolation varies from person to person, so be sure you understand what your isolation timeline needs to look like. For example, someone with an asymptomatic COVID-19 case can get vaccinated when their isolation ends. You don't need a negative viral test before vaccination
- The data show that unvaccinated adults are twice as likely to get COVID-19 a second time than those vaccinated after recovering. Vaccine-induced immunity offers incredibly effective protection against severe illness from COVID-19 — even against the more infectious omicron variant. And COVID boosters provide even more protection. This means anyone eligible should consider getting their booster as soon as possible.
2- How soon can I get a COVID booster after having COVID-19?
The scientific community is urging that everyone 12 and older get a COVID-19 booster as soon as they're eligible to help fight back the hugely contagious omicron mutant that's ripping through the country. If you have recently had a COVID-19 breakthrough infection and are 16+, it's recommended that you get your COVID booster once your symptoms have resolved and you've met the criteria to end isolation — and the recommended time has elapsed since your primary series of either Pfizer (5 months), Moderna (6 months) or J&J (2 months).
3- Who should get a booster shot?
Everyone ages 12 years and older get a booster after completing their primary vaccination series. People who received the Pfizer-Biotech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for their primary series should get a booster shot at least 6 months after completing the primary series. People who received Johnson & Johnson's Janssen COVID-19 vaccine should get a booster shot at least 2 months after getting their first shot.
Important: Vaccinated people who received monoclonal antibodies as part of their COVID-19 treatment plan will need to wait 90 days before getting a COVID booster (COVID-19 vaccine booster shots.)
4- How long does protection to the vaccine last?
We don't know yet how long COVID-19 vaccine protection lasts, and recent studies show that protection against the virus may decrease over time. This reduction in protection has led CDC to recommend that everyone ages 18 years and older get a booster shot after completing their primary vaccination series.
5- What to do for quarantine:
- Stay home for at least 5 days (day 0 through day 5) after your last contact with a person who has COVID-19. The date of your exposure is considered day 0. Wear a well-fitting mask when around others at home.
- For 10 days after your last close contact with someone with COVID-19, watch for fever (100.4◦F or greater), cough, shortness of breath, or other COVID-19 symptoms.
- If you develop symptoms, get tested immediately and isolate them until you receive your test results. If you test positive, do the following:
“The best approach is to use an antigen test towards the end of the 5-day isolation period. If your test result is positive, you should continue to isolate until day 10. If your test result is negative, you can end isolation but continue to wear a well-fitting mask around others at home and in public until day 10. Follow additional recommendations for masking and restricting travel described above."
If you test negative, you can leave your home, but continue to wear a well-fitting mask when around others at home and in public until 10 days after your last close contact with someone with COVID-19.
Given that Omicron is spreading at a rapid pace, what steps shall I take to protect myself, my family – and my community.
According to the current research and experts, we're in danger of new COVID variants until the world is vaccinated! GET VACCINATED. GET BOOSTED!
Rapid Tests: As per the CDC, ECDC (European CDC) - and the WHO, rapid tests results should be presumptive. Negative results do not rule out COVID-19 infection and should not be used solely for treatment or patient management decisions, including infection control decisions. To improve results, antigen tests should be used twice over three days, with at least 24 hours and no more than 48 hours between tests.
The bottom line
On an individual level, many of us, if vaccinated, remain at minimal risk of a severe case of COVID. But the unvaccinated face serious risks. Some vaccinated Americans — including the elderly and people receiving cancer treatments — face a meaningful amount of risk. And the country's medical system is at risk of being swamped. So, this is no longer about us as individuals. It is about our families and friends, our community, our country.
Summary by Edison de Mello
Dr. Edison de Mello , Founder and Chief Medical Officer of the Akasha Center for Integrative Medicine and Akasha Naturals is a Board-Certified Integrative Physician. He has been in the frontlines helping fight COVID since the beginning of the pandemic.