Three leading epidemiologists gathered in Massachusetts on Sunday to sign the Great Barrington Declaration, a public call to end lockdown policies and adopt a public health strategy they call “focused protection.”
Gathered in the Stone House at the American Institute for Economic Research in Great Barrington, Mass., the declaration was signed by Drs. Martin Kulldorff, Sunetra Gupta and Jay Bhattacharya.
Dr. Kulldorff is a professor of medicine at Harvard University, a biostatistician and epidemiologist with expertise in detecting and monitoring infectious disease outbreaks. Dr. Gupta is a professor at Oxford University and an epidimeologist with expertise in immunology, vaccine development and modeling of infectious diseases. Dr. Bhattacharya is a professor at Stanford, a physician, epidemiologist, health economist and public health policy expert who focuses on infectious diseases and vulnerable populations. The three are considered to be among to top epidemiologists in the world.
The declaration states that lockdowns 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.”
The experts argue that locking down all of society causes more harm than good, and public health experts should instead focus on protecting the most vulnerable members of society. “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.”
Since their signing of the declaration over the weekend, more than 4,500 medical and public health scientists, 8,400 medical practitioners and 118,000 members of the general public have added their names to it.
A video of the summit can be found here and the full declaration can be read below:
“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 minimize 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 minimized. 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.”