Coronavirus (1031) White House Embraces Herd Immunity in Latest Push to End COVID-19 Lockdowns

14 October, 2020

Extracts from a news item below. Full text here: newsweek.com/white-house-embraces-herd-immunity-latest-push-end-covid-19-lockdowns-1538430

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The White House is doubling down on its push to reopen the economy, now openly embracing a herd immunity strategy at the urging of some health experts.

Two senior advisers told Newsweek and other media outlets on Monday that the Trump administration supports the Great Barrington Declaration, a controversial document that argues against lockdowns and calls for a reopening of schools, businesses and other entities, while protecting people deemed vulnerable to the virus because of age or other risk factors...

According to the latest projections from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, the U.S. death toll is on track to reach 392,460 by January 31, with current protections in place. If restrictions are eased, IHME projects that 497,034 Americans will have died by that date, more than 100,000 additional deaths...

World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters during a virtual press briefing on Monday that such an approach would be "unethical."

"Herd immunity is achieved by protecting people from a virus, not by exposing them to it," he said...

The Great Barrington Document [https://gbdeclaration.org/], released last week, was authored by Sunetra Gupta of the University of Oxford, Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford University, and Martin Kulldorff of Harvard University. Thousands of additional scientists have signed onto the open petition, though media outlets have reported some fake names on the list.

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Comment: Pressure is growing in many countries to reduce restrictions, but the key issue - that is not addressed by the Great Barrington Document - is that it would lead to a huge increase in deaths and would overwhelm health services. A report from GlobalHealth Now notes: 'NIH Director Francis Collins called it “fringe” and “dangerous.” adding: “I’m sure it will be an idea that someone can wrap themselves in as a justification for skipping wearing masks or social distancing and just doing whatever they damn well please.” Yale School of Public Health epidemiologist Gregg Gonsalves called the plan “a recipe for ‘carnage.”'

If the US (or any other country) were to proceed as suggested, this would be a dangerous, political decision that undermines evidence-informed policy. In my view, the proponents of the Great Barrington Document have a right to be heard, but this should be through open scientific debate, and not by launching a campaign to force their ideas into policy and practice. What do you think?

Best wishes, Neil

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HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare Information For All - www.hifa.org ), a global community with more than 19,000 members in 177 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages in collaboration with WHO. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: facebook.com/HIFAdotORG neil@hifa.org