You don’t know what you’re doing! Virus experts TEAR APART Hancock in brutal letter
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The Health Secretary came under fire from two of the scientists behind an anti-lockdown petition known as the the Great Barrington Declaration which argues the best way to tackle coronavirus is to let it spread among young people. Mr Hancock dismissed the strategy as “flawed” without a vaccine and insisted it was “simply not possible” to segregate the old and the vulnerable on the way to herd immunity.
It’s shockingthe Health Secretary does not have a basic understanding of infectious disease epidemiology
Dr Martin Kulldorff and Dr Jay Bhattacharya
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Hancock criticised the so-called Great Barrington Declaration, which called for an easing of lockdown measures in a switch of strategy to a herd immunity approach, allowing most people to return to normal life while protecting the most vulnerable.
Mr Hancock said: “It says that if enough people get COVID, we will reach herd immunity. This is not true.
“Many infectious diseases never reach herd immunity, like measles and malaria and AIDS and flu, and with increasing evidence of reinfection, we should have no confidence that we would ever reach herd immunity to COVID, even if everyone caught it.
“Herd immunity is a flawed goal without a vaccine, even if we could get to it, which we can’t.”
But Dr Martin Kulldorff and Dr Jay Bhattacharya issued a blistering response, accusing Mr Hancock of making inaccurate statements about herd immunity and the Great Barrington Declaration and urging him to “improve his pandemic job performance”.
The US-based scientists said: “After living with this terrible pandemic for eight months, it is shocking that the Health Secretary does not have a basic understanding of infectious disease epidemiology.
“Of course there is herd immunity for influenza and measles. Before vaccines, measles and other childhood disease, outbreaks ended with herd immunity before everyone got sick.”
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They continued: “As new children were born, the number of susceptible people rose, leading to a new outbreak some years later.
“The same will happen with COVID-19. In the future, most will catch it as children, for whom it is a mild disease and less dangerous then influenza.
“The reason we see repeated annual outbreaks of influenza, despite herd immunity, is because a new form of influenza arrives every year.
“There is no herd immunity for malaria because, unlike COVID-19, it is a vector-borne disease that exists as diverse collection of different strains.
“There is no herd immunity for AIDS because, unlike COVID-19, infection does not generate individual immunity.
“While COVID-19 reinfection can occur, it is so rare that it does not affect herd immunity.
“Even if immunity wanes over time, which is plausible, that will not happen completely nor simultaneously for everyone, so there will always be enough immunity around to avoid a repeat of this spring.”
Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, said herd immunity should not be discounted but said there was currently not enough exposure for it to work in the short term.
Prof Woolhouse said: “Going forward, we would expect more people to be exposed at some stage or another and that immunity would be important, whether natural or through a vaccine.
“Herd immunity is the way this thing ends, one way or another, it is critical to what happens to COVID-19 in the long term.
“Whether Mr Hancock calls it a goal or not, it will end with herd immunity.”
He said the “end point” for the virus may be years or decades away but that there is “no way” for global eradication of the disease.
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Prof Woolhouse described the Health Secretary’s comments about it being impossible to segregate the old and the vulnerable as a “tremendous fallacy”.
He said: “I don’t know, or how Matt Hancock knows, it’s not possible, we have to do it to some degree because those are the people who are at risk of getting seriously ill and dying.
“We should be paying much more attention to protecting the vulnerable and elderly.
“I worry that that statement is impetus to give up on the idea of protecting people who need protecting.
“I worry that fallacy is being promoted in this brief statement.”
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