The best thing about 2022, besides it not being 2021, is that Mr. Corona in his current Omicron configuration, will sweep over us, leaving us at last mostly immune to further coronavirus. Ditch the mask, give your friend a hug, and enjoy the concert.
It came to me there’s a way to make this happen faster. As I’m not really that smart, have no academic standing any more, and zero political connections, I’ll bet there are others who’ve had the same idea and can make it happen.
In the theme of “everything old is new again”, let’s return to the turn of the 19th century, London. Smallpox was a scourge, a disgusting disease that disfigured the victims with blisters and open sores before sometimes killing them, about 3 in 10. Survivors retained their scars. The disease lingered into the 20th century in parts of the world, which is why we have pictures like this
Enter Edward Jenner.
A prodigy who apprenticed himself to a surgeon at age 13 and there first heard the tale of a milkmaid who’d contracted cowpox and considered herself protected from smallpox, he took a while to make something of this lesson. We know now both cowpox and smallpox are caused by closely related viruses of the variola family. Throughout the 18th century, inoculation of swabs from cowpox sores to healthy people in order to ward off smallpox, called variolization, had been practiced in various parts of Europe and even in the Royal Court (1). But Dr. Jenner was the first to do a proper study and write it up, so he gets credit (2). If you click to the source, you can see he prefaces his report with a letter to the King. Beating smallpox was a big deal.
All of jolly old was ecstatic at Jenner’s discovery.
Smallpox has been eradicated, with the last case in the world reported in 1977.
Jenner is rightly revered to this day. He’s considered the father of immunology. So as a rheumatologist, he’s one of my patron saints.
So right under our nose is the final solution to COVID, in a manner Jenner would heartily approve. Omicron is probably a little closer to 2019-nCoVBetaCoV/Wuhan/WIVo4/201 than cowpox virus is to smallpox virus, but it exerts the same effect. Viruses are basically dead without a living host, but they all can be propagated in tissue culture, and Omicron is no exception (3). Such culture systems can be ramped up to industrial levels. Aliquots of virus could be produced for much less than the billions we dumped on Pfizer, Moderna, and J & J, although Fauci wouldn’t get a cut out of this one. Final product, little spray vials everyone could shoot up their noses, thereby getting their own little case of Omicron and getting it the hell over with.
Even easier. Pretend life is normal now. It actually is, dontcha know. To paraphrase John Lennon “COVID is over, if you want it”.
Happy New Year
1. Riedel S. Edward Jenner and the history of smallpox and vaccination. Proc (Bayl Univ Med Cent). 2005;18(1):21-25. doi:10.1080/08998280.2005.11928028. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1200696/
2. Jenner E. An inquiry into the causes and effects of the variolae vaccinae: a disease discovered in some of the western counties of England, particularly Gloucestershire, and known by the name of the cow pox. London: Ashely & Brewer, 1802. https://collections.nlm.nih.gov/catalog/nlm:nlmuid-2559001R-bk
3. Zhao H, Lu L, Peng Z, Chen LL, Meng X, Zhang C, Ip JD, Chan WM, Chu AW, Chan KH, Jin DY, Chen H, Yuen KY, To KK. SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant shows less efficient replication and fusion activity when compared with delta variant in TMPRSS2-expressed cells. Emerg Microbes Infect. 2021 Dec 24:1-18. doi: 10.1080/22221751.2021.2023329. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34951565. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34951565/