The leading UK Covid-19 testing expert Dr Quinton Fivelman PhD has given a strong warning to Brits not to copy the latest US trend of deliberately catching the highly infectious Omicron variant to ‘get it over with’ and supposedly boost immunity.
He also says that, unlike measles and chickenpox vaccines, current Covid-19 jabs haven’t been designed to give lifetime immunity, but a one-time vaccination could be on its way.
Dr Fivelman, Chief Scientific Officer at London Medical Laboratory, says the current US fad for deliberately getting infected with the new, ‘milder’, but more transmissible, Omicron variant, is extremely misguided.
Says Dr Fivelman: ‘Brits must not copy the latest American trend of deliberately catching the latest Covid-19 variant, Omicron, supposedly to get the disease “over with” and boost immunity. It’s true that, among people who have had a third booster jab, Omicron seems to have milder symptoms for some people, but that’s no reason to deliberately become infected with the virus.
‘Many US medical professionals are warning that the idea is “catching on like wildfire.” I agree entirely with the view that deliberately seeking to become infected is like playing with dynamite.
‘Some Americans believe catching Omicron gives milder symptoms than previous variants and helps build up immunity. Research in South Africa does indicate that the immune response of people infected with Omicron appears to increase protection against Delta more than fourfold, but that absolutely does not mean you should seek it out.
‘There are several urban myths that have developed around Omicron that need to be stamped out before they gain currency on this side of the Atlantic.
‘Omicron is more than catching a bad cold. It may share similar initial symptoms, such as fever, sore throat and body aches, but it can rapidly escalate into a life-threatening disease, particularly for people with pre-existing conditions.
‘The tragic case of the well-known Czech folk singer, Hana Horka, who died this week, highlights the danger of intentionally catching the virus. Her son says Hana, who was unvaccinated, purposefully caught Covid from him in order to qualify for a recovery pass to access music venues.
‘Catching Omicron can also lead to long Covid, with ongoing problems such as fatigue and lack of breath that may last many months, or even years if organs such as the heart and lungs are damaged.
‘If you become infected you could also transmit the symptoms to other people, leading to higher infection rates and causing an even larger strain on hospitals. With health services traditionally stretched at this time of year, even before the arrival of Covid-19, it’s really not sensible to do anything deliberately that might put further strain on the NHS.
A lifetime Covid jab?
‘The mistaken belief about intentionally catching Omicron is also echoed in the misconception among some people that having a single jab confers long-term immunity. It doesn’t.
‘Unlike diseases such as chickenpox and measles, current Covid vaccinations don’t last a lifetime or even a period of years.
‘There are a number of problems that get in the way of developing a single-shot, long-term vaccine for Covid-19. Some virus’ antibodies, such as those for measles, decay very slowly, while others decay more quickly, such as those for tetanus, typhoid or influenza. Unfortunately, Covid-19 antibodies decay considerably more swiftly than any of these.
‘The other significant problem is the speed of mutation of a virus. Some viruses mutate extremely slowly, which significantly reduces the need for frequent vaccinations. Measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox hardly mutate at all. Again, Covid-19 presents more challenges, with multiple variants of Covid-19 having developed in just two years. This increases the difficulty of developing a one-time vaccine.
‘The heart of longer-term treatments is likely to be ”viral vector” vaccines that use a modified version of a different virus (a vector virus) to deliver important instructions to our cells.
‘Michinori Kohara, emeritus investigator at the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Medical Science, in cooperation with the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, has started developing a “lifelong” jab for Covid-19 based on research he had done on vaccinia, the virus used in vaccines for smallpox, which is, so far, the only infectious disease to be entirely eliminated by a vaccine.
‘He has tweaked the vaccinia virus used in the smallpox vaccine to contain the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It is thought that this will give an extremely effective and safe viral vector for delivering the spike gene.
‘If the research proves effective, it could produce neutralising antibodies within a week of inoculation and create the strongest cellular immunity of any vaccine. That could offer long-term protection.
‘If anyone is concerned about their own immune response to the jabs and how well they continue to produce antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, the new generation blood tests available from London Medical Laboratory are highly accurate, quick and simple to carry out, either at home through the post, or at one of the many drop-in clinics that offer this test across London and the southeast. For full details see: https://www.privatecoronavirustests.com/product/igg-quantitative