Matt Hancock is wrong about herd immunity

Confusion about the Covid-19 science is hampering debate — and costing lives


Yesterday in parliament, Matt Hancock explained to the house why, “on the substance”, the central claim of the Great Barrington Declaration was “emphatically not true”.

“Many diseases never reach herd immunity – including measles, malaria, AIDS and flu…” he said. “Herd immunity is a flawed goal – even if we could get to it, which we can’t.”  (See link for article)



Dr. Sunetra Gupta succinctly takes Hancock and other herd immunity nay-sayers to task.  She and two other epidemiologists have come up with The Great Barrington Declaration: HTTPS://GBDECLARATION.ORG

  • She points out that natural infection with measles provides life-long immunity and keeps risk of infection low.
  • Regarding malaria, we obtain some immunity when first infected so as to not suffer severe disease and death when further attacked, which she points out is probably also common with COVID-19.
  • Regarding AIDS she states rates of infection will slow as the virus runs out of hosts.
  • While the flu finds ways around herd immunity, it is unlikely for coronaviruses – including COVID-19.  If it can, it poses a serious problem for vaccine development.  
  • There is enough of the population with some level of immunity to coronaviruses to keep risk of infection low, and that being infected with one coronavirus will probably offer some protection against others.
  • There is no way to know how many have been exposed or resistant to COVID-19 but that attainment of the herd immunity threshold does not lead to disease eradication. It merely means we have reached an equilibrium state in which infections linger at low levels in the community. This is the situation we tolerate for most infectious diseases.
  • The Great Barrington Declaration proposes a solution in this face of uncertainty. It suggests that we exploit the fact COVID-19 does not cause much harm to most, and allows them to resume normal lives, while shielding those who are vulnerable.  Immunity will then build so there is a low enough risk of infection to the vulnerable population that they may resume their normal lives. All of this can happen over a period of six months.  Focused protection does not involve the permanent segregation of the vulnerable from the rest of the population.
  • Directing hospital and care homes is one obvious priority.
  • Gupta points out the GBD has been attacked by the media, including Wikipedia & Google (no shocker) but that serious scientists from top institutions suggests it has merit, but that good faith disagreements must be aired and discussed.

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