Herd Immunity: Not If But When

Don’t Fence Us In!

An important statement from Martin Kulldorff, co-author of the Great Barrington Declaration referenced in previous post reprinted below.  Reported in Newsweek, (here)

In an email sent to Newsweek, one of the petitions co-authors, Dr. Martin Kulldorff wrote, “We are very pleased with the reception that the Great Barrington Declaration has received, with over 75,000 co-signers in less than two days, including over 3,000 Medical and Public Health Scientists and over 4,000 Medical Practitioners.”

“We are not advocating a ‘herd immunity strategy.’ Herd immunity is not a strategy, but a scientifically proven phenomena, just like gravity.

And you would not say that an airplane pilot is using a ‘gravity strategy’ to land a plane. No matter what strategy is used, we will reach herd immunity sooner or later, just as an airplane will reach the ground one way or another,” Kulldorff’s email said. “The key is to minimize the number of deaths until we reach herd immunity and that is what the Great Barrington Declaration is about.”

H/T to Reference Frame for a clarifying post on herd immunity drawing on experience in Prague and Czech Republic.  Lubos Motl writes:  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

At this moment, Czechia is by far the most Covid-active country in the world, a fact that is caused by Czechs’ not being afraid of this disease now, despite the efforts of the prime minister, minister of health, and a few others who would like to reignite the fear. We still had concerts, ice-hockey matches with thousands of fans etc. last night, the life is continuing normally. Culture, sports, and fun will be banned for two weeks from next Monday; after the totally free July and August, we basically added another month of almost complete freedom in which it was already clear that the disease was quickly growing.

If you want to know, the deaths are a bit above 900 now, growing ~30 a day. Hospitalizations are at ~1900, growing ~150 per day. Serious cases are above ~400, growing by 10-50 a day. 800 mild hospitalized patients will be moved to hotels, a smart move, especially because hotels are surely under-utilized now. While only ~400 ICU-like beds are used by Covid patients now, we have some ~800 available – the system is ready for another tripling of the serious Covid cases. Claims about the cracking Czech healthcare system are exaggerated (a euphemism for “complete lies”).

The death-to-cases ratios is much lower than it was in spring, pretty much proving that the disease is comparable to flu in average.

Maybe a less severe variant of the virus has spread; maybe people are getting lower doses now; and maybe it’s because of the treatment. In Czechia, doctors use all kinds of treatments, obviously oxygen, mechanical ventillation, and favipiravir, convalescent plasma, isoprinosine, corticosteroids, and… especially remdesivir.

Czechia will go through another month of this elevated Covid activity. Many of us will be afraid, some of us will have to be saddened. A vaccine may arrive and the minister of health has declared his intention to strip you of the face mask duties if you are vaccinated (it should apply to all other restrictions; and to the immune Covid alumni, too). This is a sensible incentive to get vaccinated. But the current fatality rate due to Covid is so much smaller than in spring (also due to remdesivir) that we should simply go through this unpleasant experience at full speed.

The Czech doctors’ petition against the hysteria and restrictions has over 64,000 signatures now. I am disappointed (and surprised) that our government doesn’t just accept this fact – that the penetration comparable to herd immunity is unavoidable – and doesn’t try to make everyone sure that it can really manage it. 

Background from Previous Post

Medical experts: Lockdowns do more harm than good is a declaration by Martin Kulldorff, Sunetra Gupta and Jay Bhattacharya reported at NY Post.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

On Oct. 4, 2020, three preeminent experts — Dr. Martin Kulldorff, professor of medicine at Harvard University; Dr. Sunetra Gupta, an epidemiologist at Oxford University; and Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a physician and epidemiologist at Stanford University — delivered the following declaration, calling for a different approach to dealing with the novel coronavirus than the lockdown model:

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.

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

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

Fortunately, our understanding of the virus is growing. 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.

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 — that is, 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. This is Focused Protection.

Adopting measures to protect the vulnerable should be the central aim of public-health responses to COVID-19. By way of example, nursing homes should use staff with acquired immunity and perform frequent polymerase-chain-reaction testing of other staff and all visitors. Staff rotation should be minimized.

Retired people living at home should have groceries and other essentials delivered to their homes. When possible, they should meet family members outside, rather than inside. A comprehensive and detailed list of measures, including approaches to multigenerational households, can be implemented and is well within the scope and capability of public-health professionals.

Those who are not vulnerable should immediately be allowed to resume life as normal. Simple hygiene measures, such as handwashing and staying home when sick, should be practiced by everyone to reduce the herd immunity threshold.

Schools and universities should be open for in-person teaching. Extracurricular activities, such as sports, should be resumed. Young, low-risk adults should work normally, rather than from home. Restaurants and other businesses should open. Arts, music, sport and other cultural activities should resume. People who are more at risk may participate if they wish, while society as a whole enjoys the protection conferred upon the vulnerable by those who have built up herd immunity.

Since the declaration was published, more than 2,000 public-health scientists and more than 2,000 medical practitioners have signed it, as have nearly 40,000 members of the general public. You can add your signature to the declaration online at https://gbdeclaration.org.

See Also Herd Immunity Already? summarizing interview with Professor Sunetra Gupta.

 

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