Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Top infectious disease experts launch drive to end lockdowns


(Pixabay image)

Leading epidemiologists have launched a petition calling for an end to lockdowns of the healthy and, instead, focusing on protecting the people who are vulnerable to the coronavirus.

Professors Dr. Martin Kulldorff of Harvard, Dr. Sunetra Gupta of Oxford and Dr. Jayanta Bhattacharya of Stanford announced the effort in an interview Monday with Fox News' Laura Ingraham.

The Great Barrington Declaration states that as "infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists we have grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies, and recommend an approach we call Focused Protection."

"Most of my colleagues in infectious disease," Kulldorf told Ingraham, "are in favor of risk-based strategy or an age-based strategy where we protect the elderly or other high risk groups while the younger resume life more or less normally."

At the time this article was published, more than 2,400
medical health and public health scientists had co-signed the declaration along with more than 2,700 practicing medical professionals.

Gupta and Bhattacharya emphasized that herd immunity should be the objective, contending it could be achieved in a relatively short amount of time.

COVID is not a "death sentence," Bhattacharya argued, alluding to survival rates of nearly 100% for those under 70 and nearly 95% for those who are older.

"I think we've created this idea in the public mind that it is something so unique and so deadly that we should utterly end all normal existence as a result of it," he said.

"That's not right. We can have a much better way. Protect the vulnerable. Shield them for a short period of time until we reach a level where there is population immunity," the Stanford professor said. "And for the rest of the world, let us live our lives."

The CDC last month issued new estimates that showed people under 50 years infected by COVID-19 have nearly a 100% survival rate. It broke down to a 99.997% survival rate for 0-19; 99.98% for ages 20-49; 99.5% for 50-69; and 94.6% for those over 70.

Those who died of coronavirus, according to the CDC, had an average of 2.6 comorbidities, meaning more than two chronic diseases along with COVID-19. Overall, the CDC says, just 6% of the people counted as COVID-19 deaths died of COVID-19 alone.

This week the World Health Organization said it currently estimates 10% of the world's population has been infected, meaning that by the U.N. body's own account, the infection fatality rate for COVID-19 is only 0.13%. That's a little more than one-tenth of 1%, which the WHO says is the rate for the seasonal flu.

The WHO's estimate in March of a death rate of 3.4% sparked panic worldwide, fueling the catastrophic lockdowns.

The Great Barrington Declaration argues that #COVID19 #lockdowns should be replaced with Focused Protection. Please sign.https://t.co/07nispEacW #GBdeclaration

— Martin Kulldorff (@MartinKulldorff) October 5, 2020

'Denying basic facts about biology'

Ingraham asked her guests to comment on White House coronavirus adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci's insistence in an interview with CNN Monday night that "we need to flood the system" with "surveillance testing" to find out what the level of infection is in the community on a broad scale.

"I think that's a very inefficient use of very limited resources," Gupta said.

"What we really want to do is protect the vulnerable, so it makes every bit if sense to me that we would take those resources and use them to develop smart strategies to protect the vulnerable," she said.

By not testing those who have little risk, she said, "you actually allow that population to build up a level of immunity which in turn protects the vulnerable."

"So, it's a kind of win-win," she said.

Gupta said three to six months is sufficient time for enough immunity to accumulate so that the vulnerable can resume their normal lives.

Battacharya was asked to comment on the ridicule of the strategy of achieving herd immunity adopted successfully by Sweden.

"I think that denying herd immunity is like denying gravity. Gravity exists and herd immunity exists," he said.

He explained that even if a vaccine is developed, it's herd immunity that protects the population against the virus.

The real question, Battacharya said, is how to achieve herd immunity, and he contends the strategy the declaration advocates "will get us there more quickly, with less loss of life and less damage to other aspects of public health that get ignored, I think, by these doctors that are essentially denying basic facts about biology."

Ingraham said that keeping children from in-person classes "will go down as one of the most outrageous abuses of supposed science that we've seen in the last 50 years."

"Children are being kept from school with a 99.997% survival rate of anyone under the age of 19? It's insanity."

"I would have to agree," Gupta said. ... "It's absolutely tragic, it's unconscionable."

"We should appreciate young adults who help generate herd immunity by living normal lives and keeping society afloat. When people throw misguided complaints at you, falsely claiming that you are endangering others, remember that the opposite is true." https://t.co/6GZSgYg6jH

— Martin Kulldorff (@MartinKulldorff) August 17, 2020

Kulldorf and Bhattacharya recently participated in a roundtable with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in which they said the widescale lockdowns actually increase the risk to the vulnerable, slowing down the building of herd immunity for the population.

Bhattacharya emphasized the sharp difference in mortality rate for younger people, pointing out it's lower than the seasonal flu.

The current Centers for Disease Control data shows influenza is deadlier among children ages 0-17 than COVID-19. During the 2018-19 flu season, the CDC recorded 480 flu deaths among children ages 0-17 in the United States. About 90 died from coronavirus complications from the beginning of the pandemic through mid-August, the American Academy of Pediatrics said.

See the interview with Ingraham:

'Irreparable damage'

The Great Barrington Declaration emphasizes the "irreparable damage" caused by the lockdowns.

"Coming from both the left and right, and around the world, we have devoted our careers to protecting people," it states.

"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," the epidemiologists write.

"Keeping these measures in place until a vaccine is available will cause irreparable damage, with the underprivileged disproportionately harmed."

They note that knowledge of the coronavirus is growing and it's now known 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 argue that as immunity builds the population, the risk of infection for everyone, 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," they write.

"Our goal should therefore be to minimize mortality and social harm until we reach herd immunity."

They argue that 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."

They call that approach "Focused Protection."


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