Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday October 20, 2020
Declaration calling for end to lockdowns is about politics, not public health
It’s name — Great Barrington Declaration — seems an attempt to make it sound important, even authoritative. It is neither. Rather, “it’s callous, dangerous nonsense” in the words of American microbiologist and immunologist John Moore.
Moore was one of thousands of medical and public health experts reacting to last week’s carefully scripted release of the so-called declaration, which essentially calls for and end to lockdowns and allowing people to be infected by COVID-19, so eventually herd immunity would be realized. The idea is that people most at risk of dying and serious illness would be locked down, and the rest of society would return to “normal,” with people less likely to die being exposed to the virus.
Herd immunity happens when a significant portion of the population is exposed to a virus, so that it stops spreading because a critical mass of people have become immune to it.
There are two ways to achieve herd immunity. The first is to administer an effective vaccine. The second, proposed by the three academics behind the declaration, is to basically let the virus run free until enough people become infected.
The first option is what the world’s medical and scientific community is working feverishly at accomplishing. The second is discredited by virtually all credible experts, other than those driven by libertarian ideology, as appears to be the case here.
Consider: Since anyone over 65 is automatically at higher risk of serious outcomes, all those people would need to be locked down. In Canada, that would be about 20 per cent of the population. Try to picture what it would look like if 20 per cent of the population was basically locked away while the virus raged unrestrained in the rest of the population.
Experts say that to achieve herd immunity, 70 per cent of the population would need to be infected. That’s 70 per cent of Canada’s approximately 37.6 million people. That means something like 26 million Canadians would need to be infected in order to achieve herd immunity. To Oct. 15, just under 176,000 Canadians had contracted COVID-19. Even given that many cases have gone unreported, that is an unthinkable rate of disease spread.
Try to imagine the implications on our health-care system of that many people being infected. It’s true that younger, healthy people generally don’t get as sick as higher risk people, but if only a fraction of those millions became seriously ill, hospitals would be overwhelmed. And imagine how many people would suffer long-term health effects? And how many locked-down at risk people would become sick based on the sheer volume of infected people?
All of this is magnified many times in the United States, where the pandemic has been so badly managed and continues to spread disastrously. So perhaps it’s not surprising that this horribly inhumane, destructive approach is popular at the Trump White House. (Britain’s Boris Johnson is also a fan of herd immunity by massive death toll.)
In truth, this declaration has little to do with public health. It’s all about a political viewpoint. It’s a crank, dressed up as in credible clothes. While the authors may be credentialed experts, the work itself is funded by far right conservative interests. The American Institute for Economic Research (AIER), where the declaration was signed, is a libertarian think tank committed to “pure freedom” and wishes to see the “role of government … sharply confined.” So, if this is a crock, why waste time writing about it? Because, it’s a crock carefully disguised to look and feel credible. The world’s science and medical community quickly exposed this attempt, but it won’t be the last, which is why we need to remain on guard. (Hamilton Spectator Editorial)