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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 11/16/21

The Unjust Condemnation of the Great Barrington Declaration

Message Dom Filanowski

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What is the Great Barrington Declaration? How is it being misrepresented and why?

Written by three experts with credentials in the appropriate fields of study (infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists) from Oxford, Harvard and Stanford Universities, the Great Barrington Declaration was signed on October 4th, 2020 at the American Institute for Economic Research, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Released to the public on the following day, forty-three scientists and medical practitioners initially co-signed the declaration as well. According to the GBD website, a total of 14,981 medical & public health scientists and 44,167 medical practitioners have signed the Declaration, to date.

A signed statement in support of an alternative approach to Covid-19 mitigation, the Great Barrington Declaration calls for a strategy known as "focused-protection." The central tenet of the GBD can be summed up by the following passage:

"The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity, is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk. We call this Focused Protection." -Great Barrington Declaration.

Focused-protection is fairly similar to the Heterogeneous Transmission Thesis (HTT), which was published by Maria Chikina (Computational Biologist) and Wesley Pegden (Mathematician) on March 16th, 2020 []. According to the thesis, both mortality and hospitalization rates vary in "orders of magnitude by age group." Therefore, in all probability, the most effective way to reduce hospitalizations and death would be to "shift the age-profile of infections." Two key statements in the Heterogeneous Transmission Thesis disclaimer, "What we are not saying," are paramount to understanding its convergence of thought with the GBD:

1) "We are not saying that younger people won't die...heterogeneous mitigation strategies have the potential to help all groups, by minimizing overall hospitalizations and deaths." -Heterogeneous Transmission Thesis

2) "We are not saying that mortalities among younger people should be traded for mortalities among older people...depending on the extent to which hospital overcrowding affects mortality rates, our model shows that heterogeneous mitigation strategies, with greater transmission rates for younger populations, can actually minimize mortality for both age groups separately." -Heterogeneous Transmission Thesis

The principles of the GBD have been mischaracterized and vilified with multiple layers of obfuscation, including logical fallacies, the exploitation of gestalt theory principles, ambiguity and other covert manipulation tactics [click here].

When the initial layers of obfuscation are peeled back, the last remaining ploy hints at the rationale of some detractors. The main logical fallacy being applied, then, is special pleading. The goalposts that are being shifted are also logical fallacies, namely ad hominem attacks and straw man arguments.

The three most common fallacies used to discredit the Great Barrington Declaration are: 1) invalid experts, 2) invalid signatures, and 3) inhumane experts (explained below). When the first barrage of attacks on the GBD fails, the criterion often shifts to the final ploy, the authors being portrayed as humane experts with logistically infeasible, pie-in-the-sky fantasies. This is simply not true.

1) Invalid experts:

Often times, the qualifications of the GBD authors are disputed by critics. The authors are often referred to as "experts" in quotations, implying their expertise is somehow false or exaggerated. There have been deceptive attacks on the relevance of their specialties in addition to the false implication that one author's field of study may have created a conflict of interest [click here]. It did not, and the GBD About page lays out their sources of funding [].

2) Invalid signatures:

The Declaration was criticized in the media when the critics themselves signed the petition using bogus names, implying the signature count was considerably inaccurate. The GBD addressed this on the FAQ page [], which states, "Are all the online signatures real? No. Some pranksters added fake signatures such as Dr. Johnny Bananas, Prof. Spon'Ge'Bob SQ.UarePants, Dr. Neal Ferguson, Prof. Ware Thamask, and Dr. Person Fakename. In a strange twist, one journalist bragged on Twitter about adding fake names, after which other journalists criticized the Declaration for having fake signatures. Anyhow, the fake signatures are less than 1% of the total, and most have been removed from the count tracker."

Additionally, there was an attempt to delegitimize the medical practitioner signatories because some of them practice holistic medicine. While some holistic care providers are not medical practitioners, many of them are, and integrative medicine is well respected within the medical community.

3) Inhumane experts:

Sometimes referred to as proponents of a "herd immunity strategy," the GBD is regularly mislabeled as being cruel, underestimating the severity of the pandemic, or being apathetic to death. The diatribes against its proponents utilize words like eugenics, genocide, fascism, and Nazi to name a few. This characterization may be true for a handful of the 805,155 concerned citizens that gravitated to and signed the declaration, but the 14,981 scientists and 44,167 medical practitioners have dedicated their lives to improving the human condition and are anything but inhumane.

In fact, the so-called "herd immunity strategists" are also contemplating the side effects of lockdowns on the public (unreported abuse; fewer health screenings; additional overdoses; depression/anxiety etc.) instead of downplaying or ignoring this part of the equation. The term "lockdown" is defined on the GBD FAQ page []. Along with the impact on world hunger and other health issues, the homogenous mitigation strategies that were utilized may have even led to more excess deaths (in the US) than there would have been with the application of focused-protection.

For more information, please read the supplemental article "GBD Suppression & Mischaracterization" [click here].

Due to various factors like war and climate change, a global starvation crisis was already looming before the pandemic. However, the economic effects of lockdowns have contributed to this travesty. Back in July of 2020, it was reported that some 10,000 children were dying each month, and the excess death was ascribed to "COVID-related" hunger [click here]. According to the United Nations Global Compact, more people could die from COVID-related hunger than Covid-19 infection [click here]. Additionally, the UN World Food Program reported [click here]: "41 million people are teetering on the very edge of famine (IPC phase 4/Emergency)...This number has risen from 27 million in 2019." In addition to conflict and climate change, the WFP cites economic pressure and the rising cost of basic food prices as a catalyst for this growing hunger crisis.

People who live in glass houses shouldn't hurl accusations of cruel intentions.

Last year, in a media briefing, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus said [click here], "Herd immunity is a concept used for vaccination, in which a population can be protected from a certain virus if a threshold of vaccination is reached." However, this statement is somewhat misleading. The Encyclopaedia Britannica "herd immunity" article states, "Herd immunity can be conferred through natural immunity, previous exposure to the disease, or vaccination," [click here]. In the same speech, Dr Ghebreyesus said, "Never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak, let alone a pandemic."

This statement may be true, to an extent, but it lacks context. Aside from conflating the inevitable outcome of herd immunity with the strategy of focused-protection, a strategy that utilizes the natural immunity of the robust, the Director-General is leaving out the fact that never before has such a low magnitude of mortality been used to justify the extreme mitigation strategies of lockdowns and vaccine mandates. For a better understanding of the Covid-19 pandemic and its relation to other pandemics of the past, please read the supplemental article "Magnitude of Mortality" [click here]. Furthermore, the values of focused-protection have been used in past responses to regional epidemics (e.g., the 2017-18 flu season), and COVID lockdowns are "inconsistent with the standard pandemic preparedness plans that existed before the COVID-19 epidemic," according to the GBD "Focused Protection" page, which cites the claim [].

Over 80% of the US population was never vaccinated for the so-called "Asian flu" of 1957, and this figure was likely much higher for the rest of the world [click here]. Moreover, although government mandated lockdowns were considered in 1957, this extreme measure was not implemented. It was believed that the side effects of such a radical approach would be more detrimental than allowing the infection to spread naturally [click here]. Schools were voluntarily closed when high absentee rates made it necessary to do so, but the closures were short-lived and did not have an adverse effect on education. Natural immunity played a significant role in the development of herd immunity, the inevitable outcome that ended all three major pandemics of the 20th century (i.e., 1918; 1957; 1968). Mandatory vaccination was not imposed when such an ambition was possible (e.g., 1957; 1968).

Former Editorial-Director of the American Institute for Economic Research Jeffrey Tucker wrote the following in regard to the public health deliberations of the 1957 pandemic [click here]: "They concluded that they should recommend home care as much as possible to keep the hospitals from overcrowding." This was also a consideration for the 2017-18 flu season, which, according to the CDC [click here], was "at or above the epidemic threshold for 16 consecutive weeks."

In all likelihood, Covid-19 public health messaging has contributed to the congestion of hospitals. When primary care physicians send their patients to the emergency room, or when individuals admit themselves [and their situation does not necessitate emergency care], the result is that hospitals become even more overcrowded. This is not to say that there aren't masses of people in urgent need of medical attention. There are indeed spikes in vital COVID hospitalizations, but these spikes have been compounded by the ongoing, non-emergency visits to the ER, which have significantly contributed to the fatigue and apathy of hospital staff [something I have witnessed firsthand when my doctor sent me to the ER because of moderate, COVID-like symptoms without dyspnea].

One can sprint for a short distance or run a long distance at a slower pace, but no one can sprint for the entire duration of a marathon.

Named after the father of epidemiology, the John Snow Memorandum (JSM) and its "EMERGENCY SUMMIT AGAINST MASS INFECTION" was published in response to the Great Barrington Declaration. Although it does have some rather impressive endorsements [], the Memorandum seems to have far fewer overall signatures than the GBD's 14,981 scientists and 44,167 medical practitioners. Its website states [click here], "MORE THAN 6,900 scientists, researchers & healthcare professionals have now signed the John Snow Memorandum." The fact that the JSM has been endorsed by the Federation of American Scientists, European Medical Association, and Association of Public Health Specialists, among others, means that the Memorandum is not unknown within the medical and scientific communities.

Why is it that the GBD has roughly twice as many signatures [from scientists alone] as the total number of signatories in support of the John Snow Memorandum, a year after these petitions were published? The sum total of scientist and medical practitioner signatories in support of the GBD is more than 8 times greater than the cited figure of all John Snow Memorandum signatures combined.

The most severe outcomes of Covid-19 should not be the only public health consideration.

Absolutely, long COVID symptoms do matter. Some people suffer long-term conditions which are debilitating, and their pain should not be overlooked. However, the number of people with such severe reactions should be considered when the negative side effects of mitigation strategies are also taken into account. Similar to Covid-19 infection, most of the people who are afflicted with long COVID experience mild to moderate symptoms. The CDC has made a clear distinction between the long COVID symptoms of people who have had severe illness [associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection] and those who have not, "other types of post-COVID conditions that tend only to occur in people who have had severe illness" [click here]. Certainly, heart palpitations can be frightening, and they have the potential to lead to more serious events. But how many people suffering from long COVID symptoms will need to be hospitalized as a result of this condition?

Severe outcomes like hospitalization and death should not be the only concern, but the messaging in regard to Covid-19 seems to utilize techniques that can be confusing. When the subject of severe or critical illness is discussed immediately before the goalpost shifts to the subject of long COVID, some people might mistakenly associate the typically moderate symptoms of long COVID with hospitalization and death. Likewise, people might make false assumptions about the relationship between the scale of long COVID distribution within the community and the potential severity of long COVID symptoms (how many people with long COVID will have serious outcomes). Such a misunderstanding could easily be exploited, and this appears to be the case when long COVID is used to justify a loss of liberty. Regardless of duration, moderate symptoms do not justify vaccine mandates or lockdowns.

While it may be difficult to understand how knowledgeable people can be engineered so easily, it is indeed possible, and aptitude is not a factor. Even highly intelligent people can be tricked into conflating two distinct subjects like moderate symptoms and severe or critical illness. Such cognitive failures are caused by the brain organizing configurations to simplify sensory input. No one can escape the grasp of gestalt, "the whole." It's hardwired into the human brain. However, it is possible to understand the illusion, to view the act from behind the scenes, so to speak. For an introduction into gestalt theory and its potential for manipulative abuse, please read the supplementary article "The Grasp of Gestalt" [click here].

Additionally, sources which are viewed as authoritative tend to instill the impression of authenticity, which can effect complacency and the acceptance of information without much contemplation. However, the true motives of so-called "authoritative sources" are not always evident. Lockdowns and the hoarding of vaccines have led to immeasurable death and suffering in developing nations. Maria Van Kerkhove, one of the top epidemiologists of the World Health Organization, made the following remark in regard to COVID vaccine hoarding [click here]: "This is not just unfair, it's not just immoral, it's prolonging the pandemic. And it is resulting in people dying."

Does long COVID really justify such hoarding? And what should we make of the association fallacy between moderate symptoms and more serious outcomes like hospitalization and death [in relation to long COVID]?

Many people will be afflicted with long COVID, or PASC. PASC symptoms can be severe, but there is a distinction between the PASC symptoms of people who have had a severe reaction to COVID and the PASC symptoms of people who did not have severe illness. Although vaccines are a beneficial tool for reducing severe illness and death, it is hypothetically possible for natural immunity to end a pandemic without a single vaccination. This doesn't mean that people shouldn't get vaccinated. It means the vaccination of some individuals is not necessary because of their natural immunity, which appears to be superior to the vaccine [see conclusions; click here].

Periodic measles epidemics, regional events which happened regularly before the deployment of widespread vaccination, were not caused by a novel virus. Covid-19 is not the measles, and there are significant differences between these two diseases. The comparison of COVID vaccination to the eradication of measles constitutes a false equivalence fallacy.

The 21st century economy is not the 20th century economy, and the ripple effect of a well-intended policy has the potential to be devastating worldwide.

Increased globalization has led to enormous gains in the overall standard of living. At the same time, people are far more reliant upon international trade than ever before, which makes local economies less self-sufficient. People in poor countries tend to suffer the most as the result of a global recession, and lockdowns caused a global recession. There are new considerations to take into account when imposing restrictions that are likely to cause economic recessions. Even so, two out of the big three pandemics of the 20th century (1957 and 1968), which had magnitudes of mortality that were comparable to Covid-19, did not merit lockdowns or vaccine mandates. Coincidentally, these pandemics did not produce economic shocks on a par with Covid-19 either. In 1918, when the magnitude of mortality was considerably high and lockdown policies were imposed, there was no H1N1 vaccine available. A precedent for pandemic vaccine mandates was not set [one way or the other].

One criticism, at the time of the Great Barrington Declaration's publication, was that it did not specify how focused-protection would work, particularly for high-risk individuals from multi-generational households. This rebuke has been addressed on the GBD FAQ page []. Closing schools and sending college students home contributed to the endangerment of high-risk individuals residing in multi-generational households. This mistake should not have happened. In other situations, government spending could have been utilized to protect high-risk individuals until herd immunity was actualized by a combination of natural immunity and vaccination.

Instead of closing all non-essential businesses, government bailouts should have been focused on selectively removing high-risk individuals from the workforce. Lockdowns created high unemployment rates of robust individuals. Under the principles of focused-protection, government spending would cover all of the essential needs to fully sustain high-risk individuals financially, thus incentivizing their voluntary exit from the workforce. At the same time, there would have been no need for excess unemployment bailouts if mandates didn't shut nonessential businesses down in the first place. This funding should have been utilized with better foresight, and, generally speaking, nonessential businesses should have remained open for the entire duration of the pandemic, just as they did for the 1957, 1968, and 2009 pandemics.

For the high-risk individuals who did not live in multigenerational households at the time [and therefore would not have needed temporary housing], bailout money would, at the very least, cover all utility costs, mortgage payments, taxes, emergency home repairs, food expenses, and supplemental health insurance of these individuals. Money should have been no object if the goal was truly to reduce excess death. Congress could have appropriated enough funding to cover the total cost or err on the side of caution, under the advisement of the health department. The expense generated by excess unemployment bailouts and additional foreign aid necessitated by lockdowns may have been greater than the overall cost of focused-protection, which would likely have saved more lives.

For the high-risk individuals living in multigenerational households, funding could have been utilized to promote temporary housing in hotels (for the duration of the pandemic) to minimize the risk of infection. One or two family members could potentially join their high-risk loved one in the hotel room, caring for them and keeping them company, while the rest of the family remained at home, supporting the war effort against Covid-19. In many cases this would simply mean maintaining supply chains to minimize shortages, which can have an adverse effect on the underprivileged elderly and infirm, domestically, and the hungry masses abroad. Secondarily, the hospitality industry, which has been devasted by the pandemic, would have benefited from such funding as well.

These strategies would not have been 100% effective, but they would have considerably reduced the transmission of COVID to high-risk individuals until herd immunity was achieved, thus lowering the overall death toll of the pandemic.

Moreover, if the health department were to promote a Covid-19 mitigation strategy that was akin to a war effort, the positive reinforcement would probably resonate better within the community and generate greater compliance than the negative reinforcement of FEAR and GUILT [click here]. A campaign that portrays COVID as an adversary would be far more effective than one that treats members of the community as if they are the enemy.

How is it possible, as some critics have claimed, to protect the most vulnerable by taking broad societal measures, while it is not possible to specifically target high-risk individuals with incentives for their own protection?

Dr William Hanage [click here], a prime opponent of the focused-protection strategy proposed by the GBD, said, "The metaphor that I use is it's akin to a wildfire sweeping down a valley, and you decide to take all of your antiques and put them in a house and just encourage the wildfire outside in the valley so it burns quickly through. And then you can come out. And that you're just going to stand inside with a bucket of water splashing it onto any sparks that manage to get in. It's not sustainable."

Perhaps Dr Hanage is not familiar with the practice of hazard reduction burning, a preemptive measure used in forest fire prevention. Since its intended goal is to lower hospitalizations and death, focused-protection would be the equivalent of a controlled burn in such an analogy. Focused-protection can accomplish this goal by taking action that focuses on protecting the elderly and infirm until a combination of natural immunity and vaccination lead to herd immunity.

One of the more brilliant deceptions has been crafting the failures of the indiscriminate, comprehensive protection strategy [along with noncompliant Whitehouse staff members] as the would-be failures of focused-protection. Part of this PROJECTION [click here] relies on the assumption that nursing home staff members would be just as complacent to the pandemic as the Trump administration was, even if the public health messaging actually resonated with its audience (the "war effort" of focused-protection). While Donald Trump himself may not have fully understood the strategy, referring to it as "herd mentality" at one point [click here], his misrepresentation of focused-protection does not devalue its basis.

Focused-protection is not "logistically infeasible," as some have claimed.

Despite the claims of some detractors, focused-protection is not logistically infeasible. Admittedly though, part of this criticism is true. Regardless of the resources allocated to focused-protection efforts, the plan could never be 100% effective. However, this is holding focused-protection to a much higher standard than lockdowns, masks, vaccine mandates, etc. Persuading high-risk individuals to leave the workforce and, in some cases, to take temporary refuge with subsidized housing seems far more viable than the public health measures that were enacted. Attempting age-wide lockdowns, public face masking, and coerced vaccination resulted in culture shock and distrust for many individuals. Focused-protection would be far less likely to stimulate negative side-effects like riots, insurrection, homicides, and other forms of violent extremism.

Far from being impractical, focused-protection may have been a legislative challenge, but this should not have been an obstacle for the viewpoints expressed by appointed public health officials. Moreover, having conservative support within the US makes focused-protection politically viable. If supporters suddenly stopped backing the strategy, it would create the optics of hypocrisy and a cruel motivation. If public health officials were in agreement with the apparent scientific majority, the application of focused protection might stand a chance. Irrespective of lockdowns etc., the fact that THE HEALTH DEPARTMENT HAS NOT ENDORSED TEMPORARY HOUSING or FINANCIAL INCENTIVES TO STAY HOME [in order to protect high-risk individuals, some of whom are essential workers] does raise significant questions about the scruples of HHS ethics.

Focused-protection is not logistically infeasible, but it would come with a hefty price tag. However, these expenses might have been less costly than other interventions in the long run. Increased foreign aid will be necessary to compensate for the scarcity caused by lockdowns and fear-inducing public health messaging. Similar to the illegitimate manifestation of natural gas flaring, resources are sometimes wasted in order to consolidate and maintain power [click here]. There is another potential expense of implementing focused-protection, one which may have led to the denigration of its supporters. If the public were to witness the benefits of temporary housing subsidies (without tyrannical side effects), then the result might be increased support for the continuation and expansion of the policy.

Is this the real reason for all of the attacks and mischaracterizations of "dissenting opinions" within the scientific community (the apparent majority), to prevent a cultural acceptance of housing subsidies? Perhaps. Perhaps indeed. At this point, obviating public demand for [international criminal] tribunals could be a motivating factor as well. 10,000 children were dying each month, and the excess death was ascribed to "COVID-related" hunger.

Although routine COVID testing has been portrayed as an alternative option to vaccination, in reality, the mandates are not a matter of choice for most people. In essence, they are an ultimatum of being impoverished or being inoculated [for some 80 million Americans], given the impracticality and personal expense of frequent testing, which can easily total more than $7,800 in a single year (more than $300 per test, times 26 biweekly intervals). In an expression of patriotic sacrifices, some Americans recite the idiom, "freedom isn't free." When it comes to vaccine mandates, freedom is not attainable, not for the working class, that is. At the same time, in some nations, less than 3% of the population has been vaccinated, meaning most of the high-risk demographic has yet to receive their first dose of the vaccine [click here].

If we're going to risk excess deaths caused by violent extremism in response to vaccine mandates, can we at least invest some government spending (a fraction of the resources we wasted in Afghanistan) on a strategy that can save lives and is soundly based on a scientific understanding of human health? Numerous high-risk individuals who are dependent on their income are still trapped in the work force, a high-risk environment. Others live in multigenerational households, also placing them at an elevated risk.

Is the health department willing to endorse an agenda that can save some of these lives, the transfer of a cultural construct (funding) to entice voluntary action? Or has this whole endeavor been about something else entirely?

Yes, vaccines are an important tool in fighting Covid-19. They would be much more effective if they were administered voluntarily to the people who want to take them (people in poor countries, particularly those who are elderly and infirm). People in the US who have been vaccinated have good protection against COVID. The unvaccinated are not the enemy, they are not the ones depriving the freedoms of others, and they are not the ones putting public safety at a heightened risk. No one should ever be obligated under penalty or coercion to take any risk of personal injury or death, no matter how perceptively small the risk may be, even if the risk can save the lives of others (e.g., the lives of people who cannot be vaccinated because of KNOWN underlying health conditions).

(Article changed on Nov 20, 2021 at 2:23 AM EST)

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Dominic M Filanowski, II is a self-described writer-artist-activist and a cultivator of thought. He's a Philly-boy that truly knows the meaning of brotherly love. Educated in the field of graphic design, Dominic has a working knowledge of (more...)

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