There is no 'scientific divide' over herd immunity - 2020-06-12
On October 4, in a wood-panelled room at an event hosted by a libertarian think tank, three scientists signed a document that they say offers an alternative way of responding to the Covid-19 pandemic. The signing of this so-called "Great Barrington Declaration" was greeted with clinking champagne glasses before the signatories jetted off to Washington DC on the invite of White House coronavirus advisor Scott Atlas.
Aside from the three lead signatories, there is little about the Great Barrington Declaration that feels convincingly scientific. Not its website, which boasts that the statement has been signed by 2,780 "Medical and Public Health Scientists" who only had to tick a box and enter a name to be included on that list. Nor the brief declaration itself, which offers little in the way of scientific evidence or even substantially new policy suggestions.
While the science isn't particularly convincing, the Great Barrington Declaration has been successful in one respect. It suggests that scientists fall into two camps: those who are pro-lockdown and those who think we should avoid lockdowns and allow people to become infected, hopefully building up enough herd immunity along the way. The media has picked up on this narrative of a supposed rift among scientists and has run with it, while simultaneously declaring that no one is talking about it. "[The Great Barrington Declaration] has been almost entirely ignored by the media outlets that spend much of their days presenting themselves as obedient to science," wrote James Freeman in the Wall Street Journal on October 6, the same day that stories about the statement ran in The Guardian, Independent and Telegraph and ignoring the fact that articles about this supposed divide have been bubbling along for almost as long as the pandemic.