The White House has embraced a declaration by a group of scientists urging free spread of the coronavirus among healthy young people in an effort to achieve “herd immunity” through widespread infection instead of a vaccine, The New York Times reports.
The Times reported that during a White House call on Monday two White House officials cited an Oct. 4 petition titled The Great Barrington Declaration, with more than 9,000 signatories worldwide that condemns lockdowns and pushes for businesses and schools to reopen to achieve herd immunity, suggesting that young people are at “minimal risk of death” from coronavirus.
“Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health,” the declaration states, adding: “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. We call this Focused Protection.”
The “herd immunity” approach would aim to protect the elderly and the vulnerable while allowing for infections among the young until the disease stops spreading on the assumption that most of the population has contracted the virus. But it’s nearly impossible to protect all Americans who are elderly or are otherwise saddled with underlying conditions that put them at higher risk of death from COVID-19.
Per the Times, the document emerged from a meeting hosted by the libertarian-leaning American Institute for Economic Research.
Among its lead authors is Dr. Jay Bhattacharya an epidemiologist and infectious disease expert from Stanford University. President Donald Trump’s science adviser Dr. Scott Atlas also hails from Stanford and has previously advocated for reaching herd immunity by ending lockdowns and eliminating mandates on mask-wearing and social-distancing.
According to the Times, leading experts have estimated that roughly 85 to 90 percent of the American population is still susceptible to the coronavirus, meaning that the nation is far from achieving herd immunity.
Responding to news of the declaration during a CNN interview on Wednesday morning, Dr. William Haseltine, a former professor at Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health, warned against the White House embracing a herd immunity approach.
“I’m extremely concerned that the president is being advised by people who speak of herd immunity,” Haseltine said, adding: “herd immunity is another word for mass murder.”