5,300 physicians, scientists: Herd immunity as virus management is a 'dangerous fallacy'

Thousands of scientists, researchers and healthcare professionals have signed the John Snow Memorandum denouncing herd immunity as "a dangerous fallacy unsupported by scientific evidence."

The stance comes in response to the Great Barrington Declaration, authored by three epidemiologists in early October. Citing their concerns about the damaging physical and mental health effects of current COVID-19 lockdown policies, the trio put forth an approach for virus control called "focused protection." The proposal aims to minimize mortality and social harm by allowing young people to resume life as normal — including attending school and work in person — to build herd immunity, while encouraging older people and those who are medically vulnerable to isolate.

A group of international researchers with expertise in public health, epidemiology, medicine, pediatrics, sociology, virology, infectious disease, health systems, psychology, psychiatry, health policy and mathematical modeling came together to draft the John Snow Memorandum, which states that "any pandemic management strategy relying upon immunity from natural infections for COVID-19 is flawed." 

"The arrival of a second wave and the realization of the challenges ahead has led to renewed interest in a so-called herd immunity approach, which suggests allowing a large uncontrolled outbreak in the low-risk population while protecting the vulnerable. Proponents suggest this would lead to the development of infection-acquired population immunity in the low-risk population, which will eventually protect the vulnerable. This is a dangerous fallacy unsupported by scientific evidence," the memo reads. 

The memorandum is named after a British physician known as the "father of epidemiology" and often credited with bringing an end to an 1854 cholera outbreak in London. It was first published in The Lancet.

Its publication coincided with remarks from Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who denounced the Great Barrington Declaration in an interview with Yahoo News last week, asserting that it would result in many avoidable deaths.

"In our community, maybe a third of the population — depending on how you figure it — are vulnerable and would be prone to getting serious complications from COVID-19 disease," said Dr. Fauci. "You have the elderly, obese people, people with underlying conditions like heart disease, diabetes and other conditions. If you let infections rip, as it were, and say, 'Let everybody get infected that is going to be able to get infected, and then we'll have herd immunity,' — quite frankly that is nonsense. Anybody who knows anything about epidemiology will tell you that that is nonsense and very dangerous. What will happen, if you do that, by the time you get to herd immunity you will have killed a lot of people that would have been avoidable." 

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