White House Keen on “Herd Immunity,” Scientists Appalled
As Donald Trump brags of his “protective glow” of immunity to the coronavirus at least two of his top White House advisers are embracing the medically rejected concept of “herd immunity” as a way of combatting the disease.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist who Trump has brought in as an adviser on the pandemic, met last week with what The Washington Post referred to as “maverick scientists” who advocate letting the coronavirus spread freely among healthy young people while protecting the elderly and the vulnerable so that the economy can recover.
Those promoting the concept call it “focused protection” and outlined their approach in the grandly titled “Great Barrington Declaration:”
“Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health. 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 make no mention of the benefits of wearing masks, engaging in social distancing, avoiding crowds and indoor environments, or any of the other recommendations government and scientific experts make to avoid the spread of the virus.
The concept of “herd immunity” has been denounced by other infectious-disease experts and has been called “fringe” and “dangerous” by National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins.
“What I worry about with this is it’s being presented as if it’s a major alternative view that’s held by large numbers of experts in the scientific community. That is not true,” Collins, the NIH director, told The Post. He added, “This is not mainstream science. It’s dangerous. It fits into the political views of certain parts of our confused political establishment. I’m sure it will be an idea that someone can wrap themselves in as a justification for skipping wearing masks or social distancing and just doing whatever they damn well please.”
On Monday the director general of the World Health Organization felt compelled to reject the concept: “Never in the history of public health has her immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
Herd immunity is not a public health strategy.
— Don S. Dizon MD 🇬🇺 (@drdonsdizon) October 14, 2020