Three sceptical public health experts – Professor Martin Kulldorff (Harvard), Professor Sunetra Gupta (Oxford) and Professor Jay Bhattacharya (Stanford) – have come together in Great Barrington, Massachusetts to launch the Great Barrington Declaration, a petition calling on governments around the world to adapt a more proportionate approach to managing the pandemic that they call “Focused Protection”. They are the three main signatories, but the co-signatories include Dr Michael Levitt, Dr Gabriela Gomes and Professor Karol Sikora among others, as well as several scientific contributors to Lockdown Sceptics.
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. …
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.
This is welcome attempt by a group of sensible scientists to try and inject some common sense into the debate about how best to mitigate the impact of the virus. You don’t have to be a public health expert to sign it, either. Members of the public are welcome to do so and I’ve already signed. Over 14,000 so far and I’ve a feeling it’s going to climb very high, very quickly.