Trump-favored proposal for ‘herd immunity’ ignores an egregious detail: op-ed

The proposal written by a group of well-credentialed scientists titled the "Great Barrington Declaration," is getting the attention of the Trump administration and several state governors for its pushing of policy that emphasizes herd immunity over lockdowns as a mean to battle the coronavirus pandemic.


The proposal wants to allow “those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally,” allowing people “to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk."

"We call this Focused Protection," the proposal states. Writing for the New York Times, John M.Barry points out that the academics behind the proposal are a distinct minority, with some of their colleagues even suggesting that their plan could amount to "mass murder."

"The signers of the declaration do have a point. Restrictions designed to limit deaths cause real harm, including, but by no means limited to, stress on the economy, increases in domestic violence and drug abuse, declines in tests that screen for cancer and on and on," Barry writes. "Those living alone suffer real pain from isolation, and the young have every reason to feel bitter over the loss of substantive education and what should have been memories of a high school prom or the bonding friendships that form in a college dorm at 2 a.m. or on an athletic team or in some other endeavor."

But while the proposal may be seductive to people who want to get back to some semblance of normalcy, it becomes less seductive when one examines certain "enormously important omissions" in the declaration, according to Barry, one of which is the potential harm to people who are in low-risk groups, as well as the fact that a significant number, including those with no symptoms, suffer damage to their heart and lungs.

"Second, it says little about how to protect the vulnerable," Barry writes. "One can keep a child from visiting a grandparent in another city easily enough, but what happens when the child and grandparent live in the same household? And how do you protect a 25-year-old diabetic, or cancer survivor, or obese person, or anyone else with a comorbidity who needs to go to work every day?"

The most egregious omission, according to Barry, is the amount of people the policy would kill, which is a lot.

"The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, whose modeling of the pandemic the White House has used, predicts up to about 415,000 deaths by Feb. 1, even with current restrictions continuing," he continues. "If these restrictions are simply eased — as opposed to eliminating them entirely, which would occur if herd immunity were pursued — deaths could rise to as many as 571,527. That’s just by Feb. 1. The model predicts daily deaths will still be increasing then."

Read the full op-ed over at The New York Times.