The Transylvania Times -

A Dangerous Idea


Last updated 10/19/2020 at 2:34pm

Dr. Scott Atlas, President Trump’s science advisor, has advocated the concept of “herd immunity” to defeat COVID-19. Earlier this month, a small number of medical professionals released the Great Barrington Declaration, which also advocates for “herd immunity. The idea is that by secluding the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions, COVID-19 should be allowed to run freely throughout the world. When 10-20 percent of people have been infected, then “herd immunity” will have occurred.

This is a dubious and dangerous proposal that should be dropped immediately. The declaration was sponsored by the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER), not a medical organization. While some public health scientists and medical practitioners have signed the declaration, signatories also include a professor of human geography and a professor of finance.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the American National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and lead member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, called the declaration “ridiculous,” “total nonsense” and “very dangerous.”

The American Public Health Association wrote that implementing this approach would “haphazardly and unnecessarily sacrifice lives.” The association also wrote “the declaration is not a strategy, it is a political statement. It ignores sound public health expertise.”

Herd immunity does not occur with just 10-20 percent of a population being infected. Most experts believe a minimum of 50-60 percent of the population has to be infected to achieve herd immunity.

“The idea that herd immunity will happen at 10 or 20 percent is just nonsense,” said Dr. Christopher J.L. Murray, director of the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Indeed, if herd immunity was achieved at 10-20 percent, why don’t we shoot for just 10 percent of the population to receive a flu vaccine. We don’t because that number is far too low.

Even if herd immunity could be achieved with 10 percent infected, the results would be disastrous. The U.S population is approximately 330 million. As of last Friday, the U.S. had recorded just over 8 million infections. Another 25 million Americans would have to be infected. At today’s infection-to-death ratio, that means another 600, 000 Americans would have to die to reach herd immunity. And that is the best case scenario under herd immunity.

This figure does not include the hundreds of thousands of non-COVID-19 patients who would die because hospitals would be overrun with patients. Around 20 percent of COVID-19 patients require hospitalization. If another 25 million Americans are infected, 5 million would have to be hospitalized. That would overwhelm our medical care facilities.

Another dangerous fallacy is that elderly and those with pre-existing conditions can be secluded from the general population. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) estimates more than 40 percent of Americans are at increased risk of infection. In Transylvania County, the percentage is higher. A little more than 30 percent of our population is 65 and older. According to the 2018 Transylvania County Community Health Assessment, nearly 30 percent of the local population is obese and many of them are younger than 65.

There is no way to isolate the elderly, particularly the poor. Multi-generational households are not uncommon. Many children whose parents work full-time are taken care of by their grandparents.

The economy also would collapse. You can’t remove 40 percent of the population as consumers without having a dire economic impact.

Also, there is much we still don’t know. COVID-19 can have serious effects on all ages, as shown by the death of a 19-year-old healthy Appalachian State basketball player. We do not know the long-term effects of COVID-19 on the lungs, heart and brain. And we do not know if people have long-term immunity to the coronavirus, which, like the flu, has various strains.

At present, places in which most people follow the safety protocols there are no large outbreaks of COVID-19. Many businesses and schools are open.

Forgoing those protocols to let the coronavirus run rampant is unethical and dangerous. Even under the ludicrous assumption of achieving herd immunity at 10 percent, 600,000 more Americans would die.

The best course is to follow the safety protocols we have been following – because they work – and hang on until a vaccine becomes available to the general public next year.


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