by Debra Heine
Last fall, outgoing National Institutes of Health Director (NIH) Francis Collins asked Dr. Anthony Fauci in an email to pursue a “quick and devastating” media hit piece to discredit the Great Barrington Declaration, recently released emails show.
More than 60,000 infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists signed the declaration to express their “grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies.”
The document was authored by Dr. Martin Kulldorff, a professor of medicine at Harvard University, Dr. Sunetra Gupta, professor at Oxford University, and Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, professor at Stanford University Medical School, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. All three of the doctors are epidemiologists with expertise in monitoring infectious diseases.
“This proposal from three fringe epidemiologists who met with the Secretary seems to be getting a lot of attention – and even a co-signature from Nobel Prize winner Mike Leavitt at Stanford,” Collins wrote in the Oct. 8, 2020, email, released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis last week.
“There needs to be a quick and devastating published takedown of its premises,” the NIH chief continued. “I don’t see anything like that on line yet – is it underway?”
The Great Barrington Declaration called for focused measures to protect vulnerable populations like the elderly, and allow healthy, non-vulnerable people to resume life as normal.
“We know that vulnerability to death from COVID-19 is more than a thousand-fold higher in the old and infirm than the young,” the epidemiologists wrote. “Indeed, for children, COVID-19 is less dangerous than many other harms, including influenza.”
The declaration continues: “As immunity builds in the population, the risk of infection to all – including the vulnerable – falls. We know that all populations will eventually reach herd immunity – i.e. the point at which the rate of new infections is stable – and that this can be assisted by (but is not dependent upon) a vaccine. Our goal should therefore be to minimize mortality and social harm until we reach herd immunity.”
The three scientists who wrote this commonsense proposal, which was backed by data, were ridiculed as “fringe” by Collins.
Thus far, the Great Barrington Declaration has been signed by 15,386 medical and public health scientists, and 45,363 medical practitioners. A total of 836,337 “concerned citizens” have also signed the declaration.
As WND reported, Fauci made a point of condemning the goal of reaching herd immunity to stop COVID a week after receiving the letter, calling the idea “nonsense and very dangerous” during an interview with Yahoo News.
“Anybody who knows anything about epidemiology will tell you that is nonsense and very dangerous,” Fauci said, “because what will happen is that if you do that, by the time you get to herd immunity, you will have killed a lot of people that would have been avoidable.”
Fauci told Yahoo News that virtually everyone with a solid understanding of epidemiology disagrees with the idea of reaching herd immunity through infection.
“My position is known. Dr. Deborah Birx’s position is known, and Dr. [Robert] Redfield,” he said. “So you have me as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Debbie Birx, as the coordinator and a very experienced infectious disease person, the coordinator of the task force — and you have Bob Redfield, who’s the director of the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]. All three of us very clearly are against that.”
Mike Leavitt, the expert mentioned by Collins as a signatory, is a widely respected biophysicist and professor of structural biology at Stanford University who received of the 2013 Nobel Prize in chemistry.
Other notable Great Barrington signatories include Dr. David Katz, the founder of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, and Dr. Cody Meissner, a professor of pediatrics at the Tufts University School of Medicine, and an expert on vaccine development, efficacy and safety.
Harvard’s Kulldorff is a professor of medicine, a biostatistician and epidemiologist with expertise in detecting and monitoring infectious disease outbreaks and vaccine safety evaluations.
Oxford’s Gupta is an epidemiologist with expertise in immunology, vaccine development and mathematical modeling of infectious diseases.
Upon seeing the email from Collins, one of the authors, Stanford’s Dr. Bhattacharya was appalled. “So now I know what it feels like to be the subject of a propaganda attack by my own government,” he wrote on Twitter. “Discussion and engagement would have been a better path.”
Bhattacharya said Collins “doubled down on his lies and propaganda attack” when he claimed during an interview with Bret Baier on Dec. 19 that the Great Barrington Declaration had called for health authorities to “let the virus rip.”
In a lengthy Twitter thread, Bhattacharya blasted Fauci and Collins, accusing them of launching a propaganda/smear campaign against the signatories in order to defend their ruinous lockdowns.
“If you read the GBD, you will not find the words ‘let it rip’ because the central idea is focused protection of the vulnerable,” Bhattacharya wrote.
He accused Collins and Fauci of purposefully distorting the Great Barrington Declaration.
We now know the origin of the term — it came from the mind of Collins and Fauci. When reporters started asking me why I wanted to “let the virus rip”, I was puzzled. Now I know that Collins & Fauci primed the media attack with the lie.
I was also puzzled by the mischaracterization of the GBD as a “herd immunity strategy”. Biologically the epidemic ends when a sufficient number of people have immunity, either through COVID recovery or vax. Lockdown, let-it-rip, & the GBD all lead to that.
As @MartinKulldorff has said, it makes as much sense to say “herd immunity strategy” as it does to say “gravity strategy” for landing an airplane. The only question is how to land safely, not whether gravity applies.
So the question is how to get through this terrible pandemic with the least harm, where the harms considered include all of public health, not just COVID. The GBD & focused protection of the vulnerable is a middle ground between lockdown & let-it-rip
Lockdowners like Collins & Fauci presumably think that focused protection of vulnerable is impossible. They could have engaged honestly in a discussion about it, but would have found that public health is fundamentally about focused protection.
Some in public health did engage civilly in this discussion about strategies for focused with me and it was productive.
Instead, Fauci & Collins decided to smear @MartinKulldorff, @SunetraGupta, me, & supporters of the GBD. They lied about the ideas it contains and orchestrated a propaganda campaign against us.
In this propaganda and smearing war, they joined Jeremy Farrar, the head of the Wellcome Trust, and Dominic Cummings, former consigliere to UK PM Boris Johnson.
So, why do Fauci & Collins engage in ad hominem & lies instead of honest scientific discussion? I don’t know fully, but part of the answer lies in another puzzle — their blindness to the devastating effects of lockdown on the poor & vulnerable.
For instance, the economic devastation of poor counties caused by rich countries shutting down has contributed to tens of millions facing starvation. I could list many more harms… We will need to work hard to reverse the damage.
COVID panic mongering by Fauci & Collins led countless school districts to shut schoolhouse doors, especially for poor kids who could not afford private school, especially in blue states. The harm to our kids will last a generation.
Fauci & Collins are silent about lockdown harms because they are culpable. The sad fact is that they won the policy war, they got their lockdowns, and now with other lockdowners, own the harms. They cannot deny it. The GBD warned them.
They also cannot say that the lockdowns worked to suppress COVID. In the US, we followed the Fauci/Collins lockdown strategy and we have 800k COVID deaths. Sweden — more focused on protecting the vulnerable — did better & cannot be ignored.
Though lockdowns seem so sensible to some as a way to stop disease spread, in fact, they protect only a certain class of people — the laptop class — who are permitted to work from home. Lockdowns are a “let it drip” strategy.
Bhattacharya went on to note that Collins and Fauci should play no role whatsoever in setting pandemic policy due to a conflict of interest that affects “nearly every epidemiologist, immunologist, and virologist of note in the US.”
This would be damaging enough if Collins & Fauci were not also in charge of $41 billion that funds nearly every epidemiologist, immunologist, and virologist of note in the US. Their smear of the GBD is a signal to other scientists to stay quiet about lockdown folly.
The conflict of interest created here is at least as great as traditionally recognized conflicts that, for instance, pharma-funded scientists face. Collins and Fauci should have recused themselves from COVID policymaking.
In his interview with Bret Baier on Fox News Sunday, Collins defended his e-mail, saying that “hundreds of thousands of people would’ve died” if we had followed the suggestions in that proposal, and that “crazy proposals on the basis of pseudoscience….need to be called out.”
As Newsbusters noted, more than 800,000 Americans have died with COVID, “despite lockdowns, social distancing, masking, and vaccines.”
Apparently accepting Collins’ portrayal of the GBD as “nonsense, Baier followed up by pointing out that the media and health experts are not just censoring nonsense, they also aggressively worked to squash stories that say COVID-19 leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where Collins’ NIH funded gain-of-function research on bat coronaviruses.
“Right but I guess it just follows this track with the early days downplaying or trying to discredit the lab theory from Wuhan. Why spend the time doing that when we’re talking about observation, description, experimentation and explanation? Now it seems like the lab leak is a real possibility,” Baier said.
Collins dismissed the lab leak theory as a “huge distraction,” and insisted that there is no real evidence to suggest the virus was designed in a lab.
“Bret I’m really sorry the lab leak has become a distraction for so many people because frankly we still don’t know there is no evidence really to say–most of the scientific community–myself included, think that is a possibility but far more likely this was a natural way in which a virus left a bat may traveled through some other species and got to humans and there was no lab leak involved,” he said. We won’t know unless China decides to open up about this, which they have not done and shame on them for that. But this has been a huge distraction.”
Collins announced his resignation in October after government documents suggested he lied when he claimed his agency did not fund gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Lab.
In September, Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University, said government documents reported by The Intercept “make it clear that assertions by the NIH Director, Francis Collins, and the NIAID Director, Anthony Fauci, that the NIH did not support gain-of-function research or potential pandemic pathogen enhancement at WIV are untruthful.”
Ebright was among the 16 scientists who authored a letter published last month in the prestigious British science journal The Lancet calling for another look at the evidence that the pandemic began with a lab leak. The scientists condemned a February 2020 letter organized by Wuhan lab collaborator Peter Daszak marginalizing anyone who entertained the lab-leak theory as a conspiracist. Ebright and his 15 colleagues said Daszak’s letter and a subsequent missive had “a silencing effect on the wider scientific debate, including among science journalists.”
It was under Collins’ leadership that the NIH lifted a moratorium on gain-of-function research in 2017 that was implemented during the Obama administration due to concerns that the research could trigger an outbreak.
During his interview with Baier, Collins decried the “hyper-polarized, politicized view” of the COVID pandemic in the U.S., and said “history will judge harshly” those who stood in the way of an effective response to it.
“It’s been ruinous and history will judge harshly those people who have continued to defocus the effort and focus on conspiracies and things that are demonstrably false,” he said.
Dr. Bhattacharya agreed with Collins that “history will judge” how certain people handled the pandemic.
“It will judge those in charge of the COVID policy, and it will not judge kindly,” he wrote on Twitter.
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