The concept of ending the Covid pandemic through herd immunity is a “dangerous fallacy unsupported by scientific evidence,” 80 researchers said in a warning letter published by a leading medical journal.
International signatories to the open letter in the Lancet say interest in herd immunity stems from “widespread demoralization and declining confidence”
The suggestion that the way out is to protect the vulnerable and allow the virus to be transmitted among those less at risk is insufficient, they say. “Uncontrolled transmission in younger people risks significant morbidity and mortality in the entire population. In addition to human costs, this would affect the workforce as a whole and exceed the ability of health systems to provide acute and routine care.
The signatories have experience in public health, epidemiology, medicine, pediatrics, sociology, virology, infectious diseases, health systems, psychology, psychiatry, health policy and mathematical modeling. These include a number of scientists sitting in the UK’s breakaway independent group, such as former chief scientist Sir David King, former WHO director Anthony Costello, virologist Prof. Deannon Pillay, behavioral scientist Prof. Susan Michi and European public health professor Martin McKee. .
There is no evidence that immunity after recovery from Covid-19 continues, they say, adding that people who are vulnerable will be at risk for the indefinite future and cannot be protected.
“Prolonged isolation of large sections of the population is virtually impossible and extremely unethical,” they said, calling for action to suppress virus levels in the population.
“It is extremely important to act decisively and urgently,” they said. “Effective measures that suppress and control transmission must be widely implemented and supported by financial and social programs that encourage community response and address inequalities that are exacerbated by the pandemic.”
These restrictions will be needed “to reduce transmission and eliminate ineffective pandemic response systems to prevent future blockages.” If the number of infections can be reduced to a low level, it will be possible to suppress the virus through an “effective and comprehensive” system for testing, monitoring, isolation and maintenance, “so that life can return to normal life without the need for generalized restrictions. The protection of our economies is inextricably linked to the control of Covid-19. We must protect our workforce and avoid long-term insecurity. “
There are success stories – among them are Japan, Vietnam and New Zealand, they say.
“The evidence is very clear: controlling the spread of Covid-19 in the community is the best way to protect our societies and economies until safe and effective vaccines and therapists arrive in the coming months. We cannot afford a distraction that undermines the effective response; it is essential that we act urgently on the basis of the evidence. “
Others who have signed the letter from the United Kingdom include epidemiologist Professor David Hunter, cancer researcher Prof. Charles Swanton of the Creek Institute and global health professor Devi Sridhar. Among those in the United States are Global Health Professor Gavin Yamei of Duke University, Prof. Rochelle P. Valensky of Harvard Medical School, and Dr. Ali Nouri of the Federation of American Scientists. Researchers from Italy, Israel, Malaysia, Spain, Ireland, Germany, France, Australia, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Canada also signed.