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!”
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.