While the Trump administration signals a desire to build “collective immunity” by deliberately allowing coronavirus to spread, large scientific organizations denounce a plan that they say would be deadly and virtually impossible.
This plan, Finished by three scientists in a controversial document called the “Great Barrington Declaration,” calls for protecting only “vulnerable” people and letting everyone be infected with COVID-19. The authors discussed the strategy in a meeting with two senior White House officials last week.
This week, Anthony Fauci, head of health in the United States, head of the World Health Organization, and more than a dozen groups representing thousands of infectious disease and public health experts fiercely pushed back against a series of official denunciations.
“We just have to look that square in the eye and say it’s nonsense,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told ABC News Thursday.
“Never in the history of public health has collective immunity been used as a strategy to respond to an epidemic, let alone a pandemic. It is problematic from a scientific and ethical point of view ”, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday.
And on Wednesday, a group of 80 researchers called the idea “A dangerous mistake unsupported by scientific evidence” in a letter published in the Lancet, a leading medical journal.
The Great Barrington Declaration, posted on a website sponsored by a libertarian think tank, argues that the coronavirus is not that dangerous for many people, so “those who are not vulnerable should immediately be allowed to return to normal life.” Citing “serious concerns about the adverse physical and mental health effects of current COVID-19 policies,” the letter calls for bringing back in-person teaching, reopening restaurants and businesses, and resuming large gatherings like concerts and sporting events.
So far, the letter has been signed by more than 35,000 self-identified scientists and clinicians – although some signatories, like “Dr. Johnny Bananas ”and“ Professor Cominic Dummings ”have been identified as clearly false. All signatures were subsequently made private.
The architects of the document are a trio of scientists from Harvard, Stanford and Oxford universities, some of whom has been tell policy makers for months that the virus is not that deadly. Last week, they met Alex Azar, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, and Scott Atlas, a Stanford neuroradiologist on the White House coronavirus task force.
Both expressed support for the views of scientists. Subsequently, Azar tweeted that they had heard “a strong reinforcement of the Trump administration’s strategy of aggressively protecting vulnerable people while opening schools and the workplace.” And in a White House call on Monday, unnamed senior administration officials referred to Great Barrington’s statement to reporters. “We don’t approve a plan,” one official said, according to the Washington Post. “The plan has endorsed the president’s policy for months.”
Great Barrington’s statement has been sparking public interest for months in a pandemic the federal government has failed to control. More than 216,000 Americans have died. Life has been turned upside down in virtually every way: jobs have been lost on a large scale, gatherings large and small have been called off, and businesses, schools and restaurants have closed. Data shows pandemic has unrelated COVID-19 health effects: people delay screened for cancer and treated for stroke, and more and more adults are having problems with mental health and addiction.
As the world waits for a vaccine, “pandemic fatigue»Spreading in the United States and elsewhere. In the UK, where COVID-19 cases are on the rise again, lawmakers face public resistance as they seek to implement a second round lockdown measures.
But the mainstream scientific community says giving up on protecting healthy people from the virus is not an acceptable solution.
Up to 90% of the American population stay sensitive virus, according to recent CDC estimates. Health experts fear that letting the pathogen spread unchecked among healthy people, in the absence of a vaccine, would make them sick, hospitalize, and kill many, not to mention overwhelm the health care system. And even though young and healthy people die in relatively lower rate, they can still transmit the virus to at-risk groups or join the “long haulWho endure debilitating symptoms for months. There is also no guarantee that survivors will become immune forever: no one knows how long the immunity lasts, and there have been some. a handful of reported re-infections.
These experts also claim that it would also be nearly impossible to isolate the millions of elderly “vulnerable” Americans, have pre-existing conditions, or live in multigenerational households. The Great Barrington Declaration proposes to sequester these groups from the rest of society, but does not say how to do it.
“Promoting the concept of ‘herd immunity’ as spelled out in a recently released document as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic is inappropriate, irresponsible and misinformed,” said leaders of the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the HIV Medicine Association. , which respectively represent more than 12,000 infectious disease experts and 6,000 HIV / AIDS specialists, in a report Wednesday.
In another joint statement on Wednesday, 14 leading public health organizations said that “the suggestions put forward by the Great Barrington Declaration are NOT based on science” and that they “would sacrifice lives haphazardly and needlessly”.
“The statement is not a strategy, it’s a political statement,” wrote the groups, which included the American Public Health Association, the Association of Public Health Laboratories and the Johns Hopkins Center for Public Security. “He ignores solid expertise in public health. It is attacking a frustrated population. Instead of selling false hopes that will backfire predictably, we need to focus on how to handle this pandemic in a safe, responsible and fair manner. “
And a group of 80 researchers oppose Great Barrington’s statement with an open letter: Memorandum from John Snow, named after the 19th century physician who traced the source of a cholera outbreak to London and is considered one of the founders of modern epidemiology.
In the letter, the signatories acknowledged that there had been “widespread demoralization and decreased confidence” in the face of ongoing restrictions in countries that did not adopt “adequate arrangements to manage the pandemic and its impacts. societal ”.
But the company can’t just allow the virus to spread unchecked into large groups of people, argued the letter, which was led by 30 researchers and signed by 50 others covering public health, epidemiology, medicine, health policy and other disciplines.
Measures such as widespread testing and contact tracing must be implemented, “and they must be supported by financial and social programs that encourage community responses and address the inequalities that have been amplified by the pandemic”, they wrote. They cited Japan, Vietnam and New Zealand as countries that have shown transmission can be controlled.
“The evidence is very clear: Controlling the community spread of COVID-19 is the best way to protect our societies and our economies until safe and effective vaccines and treatments arrive in the coming months,” they said. written.
“We cannot afford distractions that undermine an effective response; it is essential that we act urgently on the basis of the evidence. “