Critics blast controversial declaration in favor of herd immunity

Pushback has been strong and swift against the Great Barrington Declaration, presented last week, which argues that herd immunity to COVID-19 can be achieved through natural infection.

Pushback has been strong and swift against the Great Barrington Declaration, presented last week, which argues that herd immunity to COVID-19 can be achieved through natural infection. Reasoning that the risk of mortality is markedly higher among older adults and the frail than among younger people, the scientists behind the plan propose to isolate and increase protection for the most vulnerable groups. Other populations, with lower risk of dying, would be able to resume life as normal. Natural infection among them would build herd immunity, the argument goes, with or without a vaccine. Despite the high-profile names behind the "Focused Protection" strategy, it was not well-received. Infectious Diseases Society of America (ISDA) President Thomas M. File, Jr., MD, and Judith Feinberg, MD, chair of ISDA's HIV Medicine Association, released a statement calling the approach "inappropriate, irresponsible, and ill-informed." They emphasized that herd immunity "should never come at the cost of the planned exposure and infection of millions of additional people, as well as the severe illness and preventable deaths of hundreds of thousands of people." World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus agreed, calling the plan unethical and stressing that it is "not an option." He added, "Herd immunity is achieved by protecting people from a virus, not by exposing them to it."