The Great Barrington Declaration: Capitalism’s global policy of herd immunity

“Herd immunity is a concept used for vaccination, in which a population can be protected from a certain virus as a threshold of vaccination is reached. Herd immunity is achieved by protecting people from a virus, not by exposing them to it. Never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak, let alone a pandemic. Allowing a dangerous virus that we don’t fully understand to run free is simply unethical. It’s not an option.” – Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization press brief, October 12, 2020.

The director-general’s opening remarks come as a response to an announcement made last week of the Great Barrington Declaration, an international proposal written and signed at the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER) in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, on October 4.

The declaration advocates an approach to herd immunity called “focused protection,” where the most vulnerable are supposedly provided haven. At the same time, the youngest are encouraged to become infected to establish broad-based immunity in the population.

The AIER, a libertarian think-tank, which posits as their aim “a society based on property rights and open markets,” is engaged in a highly reactionary, anti-working-class and anti-socialist enterprise. The declaration has been partly funded by the right-wing billionaire, Charles Koch, who hosted a private soiree of scientists, economists, and journalists to provide the homicidal declaration a modicum of respectability and formulate herd immunity as a necessary global policy in response to the pandemic.

Drs. Martin Kulldorf, Sunetra Gupta, and Jay Bhattacharya at the American Institute for Economic Research, photo courtesy of American Institute for Economic Research.

The declaration was authored by Sunetra Gupta of the University of Oxford, Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford University, who is closely tied to Dr. Scott Atlas, Trump’s “chosen” coronavirus adviser and author of the discredited Santa Clara study, and Martin Kulldorff of Harvard University. These are all quite well-known scientists in their respective communities.

Clearly, behind the sham declaration is an attempt for these hirelings to use their credentials and institutions to provide a veneer of respectability. These same institutions of academics and science have over several decades become financialized and are deeply embedded in the political apparatus. It should be noted that Dr. Atlas has been severely criticized by over 100 of his colleagues from Stanford for his controversial stand on herd immunity.

Yale University epidemiologist Gregg Gonalves said to Mother Jones, “The authors are well-known people in public health, but they don’t represent anything like a consensus view about how to approach COVID. The rest of the people in their field are looking at them aghast.” In a blistering critique written for the Nation, he highlights critical factors in his opposition to the declaration:

• Most older Americans are deeply integrated into their communities, while nursing homes continue to remain vulnerable. Studies indicate that when infections surge among young people, the elderly are inevitably caught in the chain of transmissions.

• The CDC has also estimated that close to half of the population has an underlying condition that puts chronically ill Americans at risk for severe COVID-19 consequences.

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