|FROM ||Ruben Safir
|SUBJECT ||Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] The suppresion of desenting scientific opinions
The Collins and Fauci Attack on Traditional Public Health ⋆ Brownstone
On Oct. 4, 2020, with Prof. Sunetra Gupta of Oxford University, we wrote
the Great Barrington Declaration (GBD). Our purpose was to express our
grave concerns over the inadequate protection of the vulnerable and the
devastating harms of the lockdown pandemic policy adopted by much of the
world; We proposed an alternative strategy of focused protection.
The key scientific fact on which the GBD was based—a more than
thousand-fold higher risk of death for the old compared to the
young—meant that better protection of the old would minimize COVID
deaths. At the same time, opening schools and lifting lockdowns would
reduce the collateral harm to the rest of the population.
The Declaration received enormous support, ultimately attracting
signatures from over 50,000 scientists and medical professionals and
over 800,000 members of the public. Our hope in writing was two-fold.
First, we wanted to help the public understand that—contrary to the
prevailing narrative—there was no scientific consensus in favor of
lockdown. In this, we succeeded.
Second, we wanted to spur a discussion among public health scientists
about how to better protect the vulnerable, both those living in nursing
homes (where ~40 percent of all COVID deaths have occurred) and those
living in the community. We provided specific proposals for focused
protection in the GBD and supporting documents to spur the discussion.
Though some in public health did engage civilly in productive
discussions with us, in this aim we had limited success.
Unbeknownst to us, our call for a more focused pandemic strategy posed a
political problem for Dr. Francis Collins and Dr. Anthony Fauci. The
former is a geneticist who, until last week, was the director of the
U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH); the latter is an immunologist
who directs the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
(NIAID). They are the biggest funders of medical and infectious disease
Collins and Fauci played critical roles in designing and advocating for
the pandemic lockdown strategy adopted by the United States and many
other countries. In emails written four days after the Great Barrington
Declaration and disclosed recently after a FOIA request, it was revealed
that the two conspired to undermine the Declaration. Rather than
engaging in scientific discourse, they authorized “a quick and
devastating published takedown” of this proposal, which they
characterized as by “three fringe epidemiologists” from Harvard, Oxford,
Across the pond, they were joined by their close colleague, Dr. Jeremy
Farrar, the head of the Wellcome Trust, one of the world’s biggest
non-governmental funders of medical research. He worked with Dominic
Cummings, the political strategist of UK prime minister Boris Johnson.
Together, they orchestrated “an aggressive press campaign against those
behind the Great Barrington Declaration and others opposed to blanket
Ignoring the call for focused protection of the vulnerable, Collins and
Fauci purposely mischaracterized the GBDl as a “let-it-rip” “herd
immunity strategy,” even though focused protection is the very opposite
of a let-it-rip strategy. It is more appropriate to call the lockdown
strategy that has been followed a “let-it-rip” strategy. Without focused
protection, every age group will eventually be exposed in equal
proportion, albeit at a prolonged “let-it-drip” pace compared to a
When journalists started asking us why we wanted to “let the virus rip,”
we were puzzled. Those words are not in the GBD, and they are contrary
to the central idea of focused protection. It is unclear whether Collins
and Fauci ever read the GBD, whether they deliberately mischaracterized
it, or whether their understanding of epidemiology and public health is
more limited than we had thought. In any case, it was a lie.
We were also puzzled by the mischaracterization of the GBD as a “herd
immunity strategy.” Herd immunity is a scientifically proven phenomenon,
as fundamental in infectious disease epidemiology as gravity is in
physics. Every COVID strategy leads to herd immunity, and the pandemic
ends when a sufficient number of people have immunity through either
COVID-recovery or a vaccine. It makes as much sense to claim that an
epidemiologist is advocating for a “herd immunity strategy” as it does
to claim that a pilot is advocating a “gravity strategy” when landing an
airplane. The issue is how to land the plane safely, and whatever
strategy the pilot uses, gravity ensures that the plane will eventually
return to earth.
The fundamental goal of the GBD is to get through this terrible pandemic
with the least harm to the public’s health. Health, of course, is
broader than just COVID. Any reasonable evaluation of lockdowns should
consider their collateral damage to patients with cancer, cardiovascular
disease, diabetes, other infectious diseases, as well as mental health,
and much else. Based on long-standing principles of public health, the
GBD and focused protection of the high-risk population is a middle
ground between devastating lockdowns and a do-nothing let-it rip strategy.
Collins and Fauci surprisingly claimed that focused protection of the
old is impossible without a vaccine. Scientists have their own
specialties, but not every scientist has deep expertise in public
health. The natural approach would have been to engage with
epidemiologists and public health scientists for whom this is their
bread and butter. Had they done so, Collins and Fauci would have learned
that public health is fundamentally about focused protection.
It is impossible to shut down society completely. Lockdowns protected
young low-risk affluent work-from-home professionals, such as
administrators, scientists, professors, journalists, and lawyers, while
older high-risk members of the working class were exposed and died in
necessarily high numbers. This failure to understand that lockdowns
could not protect the vulnerable led to the tragically high death counts
We do not know why Collins and Fauci decided to do a “take down” rather
than use their esteemed positions to build and promote vigorous
scientific discussions on these critical issues, engaging scientists
with different expertise and perspectives. Part of the answer may lie
in another puzzle—their blindness to the devastating effects of
lockdowns on other public health outcomes.
Lockdown harms have affected everyone, with an extra heavy burden on the
chronically ill; on children, for whom schools were closed; on the
working class, especially those in the densely populated inner cities;
and on the global poor, with tens of millions suffering from
malnutrition and starvation. For example, Fauci was a major advocate for
school closures. These are now widely recognized as an enormous mistake
that harmed children without affecting disease spread. In the coming
years, we must work hard to reverse the damage caused by our misguided
While tens of thousands of scientists and medical professionals signed
the Great Barrington Declaration, why didn’t more speak up in the media?
Some did, some tried but failed, while others were very cautious about
When we wrote the Declaration, we knew that we were putting our
professional careers at risk, as well as our ability to provide for our
families. That was a conscious decision on our part, and we fully
sympathize with people who instead decided to focus on maintaining their
important research laboratories and activities.
Scientists will naturally hesitate before putting themselves in a
situation where the NIH Director, with an annual scientific research
budget of $42.9 billion, wants to take them down. It may also be unwise
to upset the director of NIAID, with an annual budget of $6.1 billion
for infectious disease research, or the director of the Wellcome Trust,
with an annual budget of $1.5 billion. Sitting atop powerful funding
agencies, Collins, Fauci, and Farrar channel research dollars to nearly
every infectious disease epidemiologist, immunologist, and virologist of
note in the United States and UK.
Collins, Fauci, and Farrar got the pandemic strategy they advocated for,
and they own the results together with other lockdown proponents. The
GBD was and is inconvenient for them because it stands as clear evidence
that a better, less deadly alternative was available.
We now have over 800,000 COVID deaths in the United States, plus the
collateral damage. Sweden and other Scandinavian countries—less focused
on lockdowns and more focused on protecting the old—have had fewer COVID
deaths per population than the United States, the UK, and most other
European countries. Florida, which avoided much of the collateral
lockdown harms, currently ranks 22nd best in the United States in
age-adjusted COVID mortality.
In academic medicine, landing an NIH grant makes or breaks careers, so
scientists have a strong incentive to stay on the right side of NIH and
NIAID priorities. If we want scientists to speak freely in the future,
we should avoid having the same people in charge of public health policy
and medical research funding.
Republished from the Epoch Times
Jay Bhattacharya, Senior Scholar of Brownstone Institute, is a
Professor of Medicine at Stanford University. He is a research associate
at the National Bureau of Economics Research, a senior fellow at the
Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, and at the Stanford
Freeman Spogli Institute.
Martin Kulldorff, Senior Scientific Director of Brownstone
Institute, is an epidemiologist and biostatistician specializing in
infectious disease outbreaks and vaccine safety. He is the developer of
Free SaTScan, TreeScan, and RSequential software. Most recently, he was
professor at the Harvard Medical School for ten years. Co-Author of the
Great Barrington Declaration. kulldorff-at-brownstone.org
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