A group of scientists call on governments to end lockdown measures and let young people return to a normal life while protecting older and disabled people through isolation.
While the pandemic continues to put people’s “normal lives” to a halt, a proposal from a team of international scientists has yet again opened the discussion of using herd immunity as a strategy to mitigate the spread of coronavirus.
Herd immunity as a strategy
Also known as the “Great Barrington Declaration,” the plan is to let SARS-CoV-2—the virus that causes COVID-19 disease—to spread within low-risks groups specifically for the young and healthy people in hope of achieving herd immunity.
As radical as it sounds, the authors of the proposal argued that governments’ approach to the pandemic is making “devastating effects” on people’s mental health as lockdowns and other coronavirus restrictions cripple routine care.
They then call on letting low-risk groups to “immediately be allowed to resume life as normal,” while those in the high-risk groups should be protected.
For the latter, Professor David Livermore of medical microbiology from the University of East Anglia suggested to protect themselves by going out “as little as possible.” He also mentioned paying carers more so that they can live either in the caring homes or near accommodations for a month.
The proposal was authored by Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford University, Suntra Gupta of Oxford University, and Martin Kulldorff of Harvard University.
The proposal, however, was deemed “grotesque” by other scientists as it shows neglect to other groups, particularly the old and disabled.
A Yale University epidemiologist Gregg Gonsalves, for instance, wrote a twitter thread opposing the trio’s herd immunity plan. Per the tweets, the scientist argued that lockdowns and other interventions were necessary to bring the infection rates down.
So, three wrongs don't make a right. And this entire strategy is just wrong in so many ways. 1/ https://t.co/Nb9uDfal5x
— Gregg Gonsalves (@gregggonsalves) October 5, 2020
He then called the proposal “grotesque” as the strategies mean “culling the sick and the disabled.”
William Hanage of Harvard University also echoes a similar concern just like Gonsalves. The professor of epidemiology argued that herd immunity could leave young and even healthy people with long-term medical issues triggered by the coronavirus.
“After pointing out, correctly, the indirect damage caused by the pandemic, they respond that the answer is to increase the direct damage caused by it,” he continued.
Other scientists find the concept of herd immunity unfeasible as well, particularly that experts are still studying how long the protection lasts.
“We know that immunity to coronaviruses wanes over time and reinfection is possible, so lasting protection of vulnerable individuals by establishing herd immunity is very unlikely to be achieved,” Rupert Beale of Francis Crick Institute in London said, per The Guardian.
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