Experts Forcefully Push Back on Barrington Declaration

October 20, 2020

A letter signed by 80 researchers says the concept put forth by the Great Barrington Declaration is “a dangerous fallacy.”

The herd immunity approach championed by the Great Barrington Declaration would, if actually put into practice, prove disastrous for society as a whole and the healthcare system in particular. That’s the message in a memorandum that was written by 80 international researchers and published in The Lancet this week. That open letter, called the John Snow Memorandum, warns that a herd immunity approach to managing COVID-19 by allowing immunity to develop in low-risk populations while protecting the most vulnerable is “a dangerous fallacy unsupported by the scientific evidence.” That’s also a point made by Kevin Kavanagh, MD, a member of Infection Control Today®’s Editorial Advisory Board in his rebuttal to the Declaration.

Kavanagh wrote that “for infection preventionists and frontline healthcare workers, the Great Barrington Declaration places their lives and livelihood at risk.”

The authors of the John Snow Memorandum come from a variety of medical specialties including public health, epidemiology, medicine, pediatrics, sociology, virology, infectious disease, health systems, psychology, psychiatry, health policy, and mathematical modeling.

In the memorandum, the authors speak of success in some countries who have employed COVID-19 containment strategies.

“Japan, Vietnam, and New Zealand, to name a few countries, have shown that robust public health responses can control transmission, allowing life to return to near-normal, and there are many such success stories,” the authors wrote in the memorandum.

They also advocated for the continued approach to minimize risk of transmission. “The evidence is very clear: controlling community spread of COVID-19 is the best way to protect our societies and economies until safe and effective vaccines and therapeutics arrive within the coming months. We cannot afford distractions that undermine an effective response; it is essential that we act urgently based on the evidence.”

The memorandum authors did acknowledge that ongoing restrictions have understandably led to widespread demoralization and diminishing trust among the public, and that in the face of a second wave of infection there is renewed interest in natural herd immunity approaches.

However, they say any pandemic management strategy relying upon immunity from natural infections for COVID-19 is flawed.

Back in August, Infection Control Today®’s sister publication, Contagion®, spoke to one of the declaration’s authors, Martin Kulldorff, PhD, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School & Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He spoke on a number of topics including the age-targeted approach to dealing with COVID-19. To view that interview and learn more about the declaration, click here.

This story originally appeared inContagionLive!®