Epidemiologists Reject Political Correctness

 

It takes a lot of courage to be politically incorrect. That’s especially true in this era of the Covid-19 pandemic. Fortunately, there are some individuals willing to take the heat.

Two of those are Jay Bhattacharya and Martin Kulldorff.  Dr. Bhattacharya is a physician and economist at Stanford Medical School and Mr. Kulldorff is a biostatistician at Harvard Medical School. They both study epidemiology at these highly respected medical institutions. Though they work thousands of miles apart, they have come to regard each other so closely they believe they could complete each other’s sentences.

They come from widely different backgrounds. Bhattacharya is from Kolkata, India, while Kulldorff is from Umea, Sweden. What brings them together is their agreement on the best means of handling this Covid-19 pandemic. They are the authors, along with Sunetra Gupta, a professor of epidemiology at Oxford, of the Great Barrington Declaration.

Tunku Varadarajan interviewed them for The Wall Street Journal. Big Tech has tried to censor this information by burying it in any Google search, much like Facebook and Twitter have done with the Hunter Biden laptop story. Hopefully you can read this interview yourself, but this post will give you a preview of their important work.

The Great Barrington Declaration is described as a “cri de coeur against lockdowns and other economic restrictions that have hobbled swaths of the world. It asks instead for “focused protection” – a policy of allowing “those at minimal risk of death” to resume their lives while societies concentrate on “better protecting those who are at highest risk.”

“The politicization of Covid,” Mr. Kulldorff says, “is extremely unfortunate. People automatically assume what your political beliefs are based on your views on the pandemic. This is very strange, in my mind.” Dr. Bhattacharya adds that “the traditional markers for political identity have absolutely no meaning” in the context of Covid. While Bhattacharya admits he leans center-right, Kulldorff refuses to characterize his politics, but Bhattacharya reveals Covid has taught him that he shares values “with people with very, very different political stripes than me. Martin is certainly a great example of this, probably the prime example.”

But when it comes to “current Covid policy”, the two are united. Bhattacharya describes this policy “violates every single value I hold dear, every single one.” He describes these values as “the protection of the vulnerable and the poor world-wide from avoidable death and suffering.” He says “the lockdowns have manifestly failed to do this by inducing economic collapse that has placed the lives of 130 million poor people world-wide at risk of starvation.”

He also cites “the norms of medical ethics that militate against doing harm to patients.” He states the current lockdown policy asks children and young adults – “who face more medical and psychological risk from the lockdowns than they do from Covid infection” – to accept this harm “in the false hope that this sacrifice will protect the vulnerable people.”

Mr. Kulldorff describes lockdowns as “the worst assault on the working class in half a century – the worst assault since segregation and the Vietnam War.” He says “present policies are protecting very low risk professionals – attorneys, bankers, journalists, scientists, because basically we can work from home.” In contrast to privileged professionals, Mr. Kulldorff says, the blue-collar class is “out there working, including high-risk people in their 60s. So the working class is building up the population immunity that will eventually protect all of us.” This explains why minority populations have had higher mortality in the U.S. from the epidemic because they don’t often have the option to stay at home.

Mr. Kulldorff says the Covid-19 restrictions violate two cardinal principles of public health:

  • First“You can’t just look at Covid, you have to look holistically at health and consider the collateral damage.”This damage includes a worsening incidence of cardiovascular disease and cancer and an alarming decline in immunization. People have been avoiding regular doctor visits that normally would treat these conditions. In India, Bhattacharya says tuberculosis programs have been suspended and malaria eradication programs elsewhere.
  • Second “You can’t just look short-term.” The health harms from these lockdowns will be counted for a very long time. These lockdowns are sewing the seeds of other epidemics: Dr. Bhattacharya says, “Pertussis – whooping cough – will come back. Polio will come back because of the cessation of vaccination campaigns. All these diseases that we’ve made substantial progress in will start to come back.”

 

Both men say their declaration is nothing really new – it’s just a call to return to traditional public health practices. They say the declaration also reflects “the norms of open scientific discourse, which have been violated by proponents of the Covid lockdowns in the name of protecting the public from ‘dangerous ideas.’”

This leads to a discussion of the term “herd immunity”, which Kulldorff calls “the most misunderstood term of 2020.” He says the term can invite “accusations of mass murder” by those who are misusing it. He defines it as “the end state of any epidemic where some immunity actually happens after infection. It’s a biological fact. It’s not something nefarious or strange.” It is not a strategy, as some in the media have suggested and criticized. It is the inevitable end-stage of any pandemic regardless of how it is treated.

Dr. Bhattacharya prefers the term “population immunity”  because he believes it better conveys that herd immunity is a basic scientific principle, from which flows the one important question epidemiologists and policy makers need to consider: “How do we get to that end state with the least amount of devastation, the least amount of human misery, the least amount of death?”

In the recent Presidential Debate, Trump favored ending lockdowns and re-opening as much as possible. Biden favored more lockdowns if the scientists he listens to recommend them. Now that you’ve heard what these scientists have to say, whose opinion do you believe is best?

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