An introduction to the Great Barrington Declaration

The main premise behind the Great Barrington Declaration (GBD) was that people who were “not vulnerable” to grave effects of COVID-19 could be both easily identified and separated from “vulnerable” people. The mass infection of these “not vulnerable” people would lead to herd immunity and the end of the pandemic with minimal loss of life or economic impact. This policy approach was called “focused protection”.

The Great Barrington Declaration: Shut down

I am sure none of you know of any of this. Sadly, the GBD and its authors were shut down by our top public health officials.

News recently broke that back in October 2020 Dr. Francis Collins, the head of the NIH, felt the authors of the GBD were “fringe epidemiologists” and suggested “there needs to be a quick and devastating published take down of its premises”.

One of the authors of the GBD, Dr. Jay Bhattacharya properly called this a “propaganda attack by my own government“, and wisely requested “discussion and engagement” instead. Writing about this sad incident in an article titled “At a Time When the U.S. Needed Covid-19 Dialogue Between Scientists, Francis Collins Moved to Shut it Down“, Dr. Vinay Prasad wrote:

Collins’s response to a memo signed by thousands of scientists should not have been to call for an immediate and devastating take down, but to use his pulpit as NIH director to hold a series of public discussions and dialogues. In a world where scientists were trapped in their own homes for months, a series of dialogues — even virtual ones — made available for the broader scientific community, policy makers, and the public would have benefited us all.

I couldn’t agree more. As long as a policy memo is signed by a large number of people, the NIH director is obligated to use his pulpit to give its ideas and authors a megaphone, regardless of the memo’s contents. After all, some of its distinguished signatories included “Dr Johnny Bananas” and “Professor Cominic Dummings”, who are absolutely real people.

The wisdom of the Great Barrington Declaration

Dr. Collin’s wrote his email in October 2020, and time has proven that the people he shut down could have contributed a lot to our pandemic response. For example, two of the authors of the GBD wrote an article this summer titled “The Ill-Advised Push to Vaccinate the Young“. This article opened by saying:

The idea that everyone must be vaccinated against COVID-19 is as misguided as the anti-vax idea that no one should. The former is more dangerous for public health.

The idea that vaccinating everyone is “more dangerous for public health” than vaccinating no one is clearly one that Dr. Collins should have platformed via public discussion and dialogue in the middle of a pandemic. As the death toll marches inexorability towards 1,000,000 Americans, it’s important for the public to know that the head of the NIH believes ideas like this are reasonable and worthy of discussion.

Additionally, Dr. Bhattacharya said on 7/26/2021 that Florida had “protected the vulnerable by vaccinating the older population”, and that “I don’t think the delta variant changes the calculus or the evidence in any fundamental way”, He said “we’ve done an incredible job at decoupling the cases from the deaths.”

Just a few weeks later, newspapers declared “Florida Broke its COVID-19 Death Record for the Fifth Week” and “Child Deaths From COVID Double in Florida as Cases Among Children Climb Across the Country“. Now, the headlines read, “Florida Breaks Daily COVID-19 Case Record Yet Again” and “Florida Among Top 5 States Contributing to Spike in Pediatric COVID-19 Hospitalizations“.

So, were vulnerable people truly protected in Florida? Did the Delta variant change things at all? Did Florida achieve herd immunity through “focused protection”? Only a public discussion could answer these thorny questions.

Most importantly, we need a robust public debate on vaccinating children. During a week in which a record 38 children were added to the AAP’s pediatric death tally, one of the GBD’s authors wrote an article called “Vaccines Save Lives“, which argued against vaccinating children. As the headlines say, “US Children Hospitalized With COVID in Record Numbers“, and “Children With COVID-19, Most of Them Unvaccinated, are Hospitalized in U.S. in Near-Record Numbers“, now is the time to ask ourselves if this is this something we really want to prevent?

With hundreds of children going to the hospital everyday, we desperately need to hear from voices opposed to vaccinating children in an NIH sponsored forum. This is especially true considering vaccines have proven very effective (here and here) at keeping children out of the hospital. Just yesterday, the CDC reported that “Among 272 vaccine-eligible (aged 12–17 years) patients hospitalized for COVID-19, one was fully vaccinated”, and that in adolescents vaccine effectiveness “was 92% against SARS-CoV-2 infections irrespective of symptom status”. Meanwhile, after 8 million vaccine doses in children aged 5–11 years, there just were 11 cases of vaccine-related myocarditis, and researchers on the subject are saying things like “most cases of suspected COVID-19 vaccine-related myocarditis in people younger than 21 are mild and resolve quickly”.

Arguing against vaccinating children, the authors of the GBD have said that the flu, which killed one child with COVID mitigation measures in place, has a higher “mortality risk” for children than COVID-19, which has killed over 1,035 children during this time. You may disagree, but don’t delude yourself into thinking it’s “settled science” which is the larger number, 1 or 1,000. We need public dialogue, sanctioned by the head of the NIH, to discuss these controversial topics in a transparent fashion.

Additionally, they’ve pointed out that old people are much more likely to die than children. As such, the vaccine wouldn’t save the lives of that many children. Is it really worth the hassle to save the lives of perhaps 1,000 more children, especially considering those with underlying conditions are the most likely to die? An NIH-sponsored forum would have been the ideal place to answer this tricky question.

“There needs to be a quick and devastating published take down of its premises

Instead of fostering debate about whether it’s more dangerous to vaccinate everyone or no one during a raging pandemic however, Dr. Collins pondered in a private message about publishing a take down of the premises of the GBD.

I agree that if Dr. Collins wanted to criticize these premises, he should have done so in a public discussion and only in a public discussion. It was clearly a “propaganda attack” for him to even consider publishing a critique of the GBD’s premises. What kind of scientist publishes something? Does he think he’s Stephen King or something?

Some writers, who are favorable to the GBD, inadvertently omit that Dr. Collins wanted to publish a take down the premises of the GBD, implying instead that he wanted to take down the people behind it. However, any written critique of the premises of the GBD is also a personal attack on its authors, of course. You see, Dr. Collins also dared to call the authors of the GBD “fringe” in his private message.

I am sorry that you had to read such a vile insult, but I felt it was important to document Dr. Collins’s depravity. Surely Dr. Collins could have come up with a more appropriate word to describe people who claim a virus that killed one child is more dangerous than one that killed over 1,000 children. Perhaps he could have called them “nuanced” instead.

Being called “fringe” seem to have injured the authors of the GBD as gravely as when YouTube removed a video of theirs, and that was a really big deal for them. Though I am sure that you have sympathy for exhausted healthcare workers who’ve been immersed in death and suffering for nearly two years, I hope you have a place in your heart for epidemiologists censored by YouTube and defamed with vulgarities such as “fringe”.

When scientists disagree with each other, it’s more professional to say the credibility of your opponent has been “entirely shot” or that person is America’s “No. 1 anti-vaxxer“. These mature, thoughtful criticisms are what Dr. Bhattacharya has said about Dr. Anthony Fauci.

The Great Barrington Declaration: Silenced

Unfortunately, Dr. Collins was successful in shutting down the GBD. Like I said, I am sure this is the first you are hearing about it. You have no idea who it’s authors are and what they believe. They have been totally silenced. The authors of the GBD only met with top leaders of the Trump administration and directly influenced COVID-19 policy for the entire country. They only met with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and set COVID-19 policy for that state. They have only testified before Congress and in courts regarding COVID-19 policy. They were only repeatedly interviewed on obscure TV channels like Fox News and have only written editorials in small, niche newspapers like The Wall Street Journal. They’ve have only made a very small number of YouTube videos. Though Dr. Bhattacharya said that “the emergency phase of the disease is over…We should be treating covid as one of 200 diseases that affect people” you wouldn’t know this, because that quote appeared in a rag called The Washington Post. Have you heard of it? I didn’t think so.

The Great Barrington Declaration is silencing me

Based on their first-hand experience with censorship, you’d expect the authors of the GBD would be careful not to silence people themselves. However, the sad truth is that I am being silenced and censored by these individuals.

Even though I invited myself to lecture about the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine for children at the Academy for Science and Freedom at Hillsdale College, I have been entirely ignored. Though the purpose of this institute, which was founded by several of the authors of the GBD, is supposedly to counter “the silencing and censoring of scientists” they have refused to extend me an invitation to speak there. My request to write an article for the Brownstone Institute, which has ties to the GBD, have also been ignored. I even invited myself on Dr. Prasad’s podcast and have been greeted with only cold silence.

I believe it is important to engage with people who hold different views rather than silence them this way. We all lose when heterodox views like mine are censored. Blacklisting people like me could lead to the end of science as we know it. Wouldn’t a simple dialogue be better than shutting me down? At least they haven’t called me “fringe” yet.

Dr. Collins owed the authors of the GBD a series of public discussions and dialogues. The authors of the GDB owe me a series of public discussions and dialogues.

We all just want “discussion and engagement”. Right?

Author

  • Dr. Jonathan Howard is a neurologist and psychiatrist based in New York City who has been interested in vaccines since long before COVID-19.

Posted by Jonathan Howard

Dr. Jonathan Howard is a neurologist and psychiatrist based in New York City who has been interested in vaccines since long before COVID-19.