The director of global infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital is predicting what was unthinkable less than a month ago: The end of the pandemic.
Dr. Edward Ryan made stunning and encouraging comments on the Omicron variant that give hope for a return to normalcy. Among these: Omicron will make boosters unnecessary. The covid virus will join the ranks of the “common cold.” And the latest wave will enter “clean up mode” shortly.
“We are fighting the last war with COVID and should be pivoting back to normal life,” the summary of Dr. Ryan’s comments states. “Spring/Summer will be really nice!”Subscribe to the Trialsitenews “SARS-CoV-2” ChannelNo spam – we promise
Dr. Ryan is professor of medicine at the Harvard Medical School and professor of immunology and infectious diseases at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He also directs the Tropical and Geographic Medicine Center
and Travelers’ Advice and Immunization Center, which is supported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
His comments come from an undated summary (see full text below) of a conference call with Ryan that was shared last weekend among doctors and provided to me.
In response to a request for comment, Massachusetts General Hospital issued a statement acknowledging that Dr. Ryan’s remarks had been shared “from an individual’s personal notes.”
“These notes lack context, details, and nuance,” the statement said, noting they fail to reflect “the role that vaccines play in mitigating severe disease or death,” or to note that at-risk people should “continue to take extra precautions.”
Significantly, the statement did not take issue with the accuracy of the conference call summary, which I had forwarded to both Ryan and media officials. Ryan did not respond to requests for comment.
Assessing the situation in the Boston region, Ryan said that close to 100 percent of cases were Omicron.
“Delta is almost completely gone from New England,” the notes said, meaning, significantly, that a more deadly variant has been displaced by a far milder one.
“This surge will peak [in New England] sometime between 1/10 and 1/21 and then begin a quick downhill journey of two to four weeks,” the summary of the call stated.
Perhaps the most surprising, and potentially controversial, statement from the call notes pertained to Ryan’s take on boosters for Omicron.
“We won’t need a booster for omicron because they wouldn’t be able to develop one before it’s completely gone and we’re all going to get it which will give us the immunity we need to get through it,” the summary states.
The booster statement is particularly startling in view of the near-universal mainstream medical support for vaccinations and boosters, including for children as young as five years old.
Ryan allayed fears of rising hospitalizations. “Most of them are secondary admissions,” the summary states, meaning people admitted for something else but who test positive for Omicron.
SARS-CoV-2 will be transformed by Omicron, the comments suggest.
“COVID will join the 4 other coronaviruses we deal with that cause the common cold, upper respiratory infections, RSV, etc.,” a reference to respiratory syncytial virus, which usually causes generally mild, respiratory disease.
“Lots of good news!” the summary concludes.
Here is the full text from the notetaker’s conversation with Dr. Ryan:
“Notes from a call earlier with Edward Ryan MD, Director of International Infectious Disease Service at Massachusetts General Hospital:
1. Close to 100% of the positive cases in MA are Omicron. Delta is almost completely gone from New England.
2. This surge will peak sometime between 1/10 and 1/21 and then begin a quick downhill journey of two to four weeks.
3. We will end up with a 20-50% positivity rate.
4. February will be clean up mode, March will begin to return to “normal”!
5. Omicron lives in your nose and upper respiratory area which is what makes it so contagious. It isn’t able to bond with your lungs like the other variants.
6. The increased hospitalizations should be taken with a grain of salt as most of them are secondary admissions (i.e. people coming in for surgery, broken bones, etc. who are tested for COVID).
7. We won’t need a booster for omicron because they wouldn’t be able to develop one before it’s completely gone and we’re all going to get it which will give us the immunity we need to get through it.
8. COVID will join the 4 other coronaviruses we deal with that cause the common cold, upper respiratory infections, RSV, etc. It will become a pediatric disease mainly affecting young children with no immunity.
9. About 40% of those infected will be asymptomatic
10. Rapid tests are 50-80% sensitive to those with symptoms, only 30-60% sensitive to those without symptoms.
11. Contact tracing is worthless because we’re all going to get it and there’s no way we could keep up with it.
12. We are fighting the last war with COVID and should be pivoting back to normal life, but society isn’t quite ready for it yet.
13. There is no need to stay home from work or to be a hermit unless you’re immunocompromised or 85 or older, but he does recommend staying away from large gatherings for the next six weeks.
14. Spring/Summer will be really nice!
Lots of good news!!!”
Here is the statement from Massachusetts General Hospital on Dr. Ryan’s comments:
“We are aware of COVID-19 information circulating online evidently reflecting an individual’s personal notes from listening to a talk by Edward Ryan, MD, director of Global Infectious Diseases at MGH. These notes lack context, details, and nuance. For instance, the role that vaccines play in mitigating severe disease or death was not included, and individuals with comorbid conditions should continue to take extra precautions to minimize contracting COVID irrelevant of age.”