Scientists from three top schools argue that building up herd immunity among the population while keeping others safe via "Focused Protection" is how society should deal with the pandemic, not lockdowns.
Dr. Martin Kulldorff of Harvard, Dr. Sunetra Gupta of Oxford, and Dr. Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford are all experts in infectious diseases and public health. They met recently in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and penned what they call "The Great Barrington Declaration," which offers an alternative approach to managing the COVID-19 crisis.
Arguing that the lockdowns "are producing devastating effects on short- and long-term public health," they said more harm than good is happening. "Lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings, and deteriorating mental health" are among the impacts on society, they wrote.
And, the trio noted, science shows us that the elderly and people with preexisting conditions are at far greater risk than anyone else.
"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," they wrote.
"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."
The three scientists said the elderly and others who are at the greatest risk should take precautions such as having their groceries delivered and meeting with friends and family outside.
States are in various phases of reopening since lockdown measures were implemented in the spring to deal with the virus that has infected 7.8 million Americans and killed more than 217,000. Worldwide, 36.8 million people have gotten sick and upward of 1 million have died.
Several vaccines are in development.
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