In the early weeks of October ‘The Great Barrington Declaration’ was signed in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, USA. The GBD advocates for a ‘risk-based’ alternative approach to lockdown, focusing on shielding the elderly and vulnerable while allowing those at lesser risk of dying to live normally. The aim of it is for a country to achieve herd immunity. However, the declaration has one problem; no single country has advocated for herd immunity after fully understanding the virus.
The GBD is the work of the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER) which is a free market capitalism think tank in Great Barrington. It was set up in 1933 with the aim of “conducting independent, scientific, economic research to educate individuals, thereby advancing their personal interests and those of the nation.” The AIER has come under controversy in the recent past, with its main doners being the Koch brothers, who are climate change deniers. Similarly their members have been publicising that masks do not work and are harmful.
Following the publication of the one-page document over 550,000 people have signed it, the majority are under the ‘concerned citizens’ category with some 10,000 medical and public health scientists signed up.
However, while the GBD has gained traction around the world, many top epidemiologists and virologists have criticised it. Doctor Anthony Fauci the lead member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, called the declaration “very dangerous”, saying that it would lead to a large number of avoidable deaths. In the US, an estimated 99million people have underlying health conditions and, in the UK, some 43% have health problems. The declaration gives no indication of costing or how to successfully shield millions of people.
Likewise the WHO have come out vehemently against it stating that the idea of ‘Herd Immunity’ against this virus is absurd. It is now known that herd immunity may not be applicable due to the possibility of reinfection. Likewise there is no mention of so-called ‘Long-Covid’ which can leave many younger and non ‘at-risk’ people with debilitating symptoms such as reduced lung capacity and scarring of the heart.
Sweden has been used as an example in the GBD as a country which has successfully tackled the virus while not ‘locking down’. However, this argument is considered flawed within the international scientific community. Constitutionally Sweden was unable to lockdown as it would have infringed upon its laws of freedom of movement. The Swedish constitution also prohibits ministerial rule and mandates that the relevant public agency must initiate all actions to attack and quell the virus. In the case of Sweden it was the Public Health Agency which is comprised of the countries leading doctors, epidemiologists and virologists who effectively took control. This set Sweden apart as the only country whose response was not influenced by politicians.
Even with Sweden’s strategy over 80% of their deaths came from care homes and associated hospices with their state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell saying that “ it was a failure, not of our strategy but of our ability to protect the elderly.”
In essence, following the GBD would be disastrous. It does not comment on how to achieve their goals, no costing analysis, nor does it mention the use of physical distancing, mass testing or mask use. It has been criticised by the UK government and described by US public health agencies as “preying on the frustrated and offering false hope”.