Scientists and public health organizations strongly oppose a recently circulated document – the Great Barrington Declaration – calling on countries to largely abandon efforts to contain the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic rather than a herd immunity strategy , less vulnerable people. In various criticisms posted this week, they criticize the plan as impractical, unethical, and only likely to cause more death and disease.
Such a condemnation released Wednesday was endorsed by 14 public health organizations, including the American Public Health Association. The declaration highlights the declaration not as a strategy but as a political declaration that ignores “in-depth public health expertise” and “spoils of a frustrated population”.
“Rather than selling false hopes that predictably backfire, we need to focus on how to handle this pandemic safely, responsibly and fairly,” the statement said.
A group of 31 scientists released her own reply to the statement in The Lancet medical journal. Their collective statement is called the John Snow Memorandum – a reference to the 19th century doctor who is considered one of the founders of modern epidemiology. Similarly, they attack the declaration as a half-hearted measure.
Herd immunity is defined as when enough people in a community are immune to a germ that can no longer easily spread to uninfected people, especially those who are more prone to serious illness. This is typically achieved through safe and tested vaccines. But the Great Barrington Declaration calls on countries to resume almost all aspects of society as normal and simply allow younger people to be infected naturally, while implementing a vaguely described ‘focused protection’ approach for older or more vulnerable populations. Although younger people are less likely to die from Covid-19, according to the John Snow memo, the risk of serious damage at the population level is still significant and it is likely impossible to resume “normal life” or prevent the virus from spreading vulnerable people if the pandemic remains largely uncontrolled.
“In addition to personnel costs, this would affect the overall workforce and overwhelm the ability of health systems to provide acute and routine care,” the memo said. “In addition, there is no evidence of permanent protective immunity to SARS-CoV-2 after natural infection, and the endemic transmission that would result from a decrease in immunity would pose an indefinite risk to vulnerable populations.”
Another important point is that the definition of vulnerable in relation to Covid-19 goes well beyond the elderly. About 14% of Americans between the ages of 45 and 65 have diabetesFor example, a major risk factor for severe Covid-19. There is a risk of dying in color communities bigger for younger People, with about a third of all deaths among blacks and Hispanics under 65.
Not to mention the Infectious Disease Society of America (which represents over 12,000 researchers in the field) and the HIV Medicine Association released their own joint exposure of the declaration.
“It is deeply misleading to suggest that moving away from the vigilance required to control the spread of this novel coronavirus and not tackling a pandemic that is overwhelming healthcare systems around the world is a ‘compassionate approach’ has, is “a compassionate approach,” it said in its statement.
Although the Great Barrington Declaration has the support of some researchers with expertise in epidemiology or infectious diseases, it also includes signatures from people without relevant expertise, not to mention some apparently made-up names such as “Dr. Johnny Bananas. “The statement also appears to have received some sort of support from the American Institute for Economic Research, a law-funded think tank that continues to promote Climate denial. Several of the primary scientists involved in the group were accused shoddy and possibly unethical Research practices in their previous work justifying a laissez-faire approach to the pandemic.
In truth, there have been countries that have been able to resume normalcy advocated by herd immunity advocates during the pandemic. However, by and large, these countries have been the most aggressively trying to contain the spread of the disease in the community. While there is no single model for fighting Covid-19, there is no shortage of practical steps, provided the political will and resources are in place (given the Trump administration’s dire response to the pandemic so far) No wonder that they seem to be to be the only ones who take the explanation seriously.)
“The evidence is very clear: Controlling the spread of COVID-19 in the community is the best way to protect our societies and economies until safe and effective vaccines and therapeutics arrive in the months ahead,” concludes John’s memo Snow.