This article first appeared in the newsletter of the Sensible Centre in Australia…
Two weeks ago, three of the world’s leading epidemiologists met in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and issued a call to fellow medical scientists, public health practitioners and the general public to pursue a path in managing COVID-19 without lockdowns. The call has been dubbed the Great Barrington Declaration and Petition.
The three are Dr Sunetra Gupta, Professor at Oxford University, an epidemiologist with expertise in immunology, vaccine development, and mathematical modelling of infectious diseases; Dr Jay Bhattacharya, Professor at Stanford University Medical School, a physician, epidemiologist, health economist, and public health policy expert focusing on infectious diseases and vulnerable populations; and Dr Martin Kulldorff, Professor of Medicine at Harvard University, a biostatistician, and epidemiologist with expertise in detecting and monitoring of infectious disease outbreaks and vaccine safety evaluations.
They have invited people around the world to sign the Declaration. The content of the Declaration is a strategy for managing covid which they describe as ‘Focused Protection’.
Below is the text of the Declaration. An interview with the three by Freddie Sayers of Unherd is available at https://youtu.be/rz_Z7Gf1aRE
“As infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists we have grave concerns about the damaging physical, and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies and recommend an approach we call Focused Protection.
“Coming from both the left and right, and around the world, we have devoted our careers to protecting people. Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health. The results (to name a few) include lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings and deteriorating mental health – leading to greater excess mortality in years to come, with the working class and younger members of society carrying the heaviest burden. Keeping students out of school is a grave injustice.
“Keeping these measures in place until a vaccine is available will cause irreparable damage, with the underprivileged disproportionately harmed.
“Fortunately, our understanding of the virus is growing. We know that vulnerability to death from COVID-19 is more than a thousand-fold higher in the old and infirm than the young. Indeed, for children, COVID-19 is less dangerous than many other harms, including influenza.
“As immunity builds in the population, the risk of infection to all – including the vulnerable – falls. We know that all populations will eventually reach herd immunity – i.e. the point at which the rate of new infections is stable – and that this can be assisted by (but is not dependent upon) a vaccine. Our goal should therefore be to minimise mortality and social harm until we reach herd immunity.
“The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity, is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk. We call this Focused Protection.
“Adopting measures to protect the vulnerable should be the central aim of public health responses to COVID-19. By way of example, nursing homes should use staff with acquired immunity and perform frequent PCR testing of other staff and all visitors.
“Staff rotation should be minimised. Retired people living at home should have groceries and other essentials delivered to their home. When possible, they should meet family members outside rather than inside. A comprehensive and detailed list of measures, including approaches to multi-generational households, can be implemented, and is well within the scope and capability of public health professionals.
“Those who are not vulnerable should immediately be allowed to resume life as normal. Simple hygiene measures, such as hand washing and staying home when sick should be practiced by everyone to reduce the herd immunity threshold.
“Schools and universities should be open for in-person teaching. Extracurricular activities, such as sports, should be resumed. Young low-risk adults should work normally, rather than from home. Restaurants and other businesses should open. Arts, music, sport and other cultural activities should resume. People who are more at risk may participate if they wish, while society as a whole enjoys the protection conferred upon the vulnerable by those who have built up herd immunity.”
Great Barrington, Massachusetts, 4 October 2020
To sign the declaration, follow this link www.GBdeclaration.org