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Epidemiologist Professor Sunetra Gupta: “We may already have herd immunity”

Real science is never settled, and anyone who has certainty on such things is not qualified to discuss it — Lloyd Chambers. That applies to climate science, COVID-19, and Einstein’s theory of relativity.

Repudiating rational debate on science is as ANTI-science as it gets, yet this attitude has become the new norm in not just the social programming networks (“news”) but it is being used to harass, intimidate and silence those in science and medicine who dare to disagree.

RE: The Doctor Is In: Scott Atlas And The Efficacy Of Lockdowns, Social Distancing, And Closings.
RE: Martin Kulldorff, professor, Harvard Medical School: Letter to the editor: Scott Atlas and lockdowns
RE: COVID-19: Great Barrington Declaration by Medical Professionals and Epidemiologists
RE: The data is in — stop the panic and end the total isolation
RE: Time to Steepen the Curve and Accelerate Infection of Low-Risk People
RE: What the Pandemic Has Taught Us About Science

The Stanford doctors attack on Dr. Scott Atlas shows us that ethics in medicine has hit a deadly new low. We are talking about deaths at levels that far exceed COVID-19 deaths.

Only children and vicious people can choose to ignore that fact, by avoiding rational debate over critically important issues that amount to death by government policy failure. Try to do so, and you’ll be harrassed, and that’s the fun part.

Yet a few brave voices of reason are still out there, such as Professor of Epidemiology Sunetra Gupta at Oxford University (interview below), Professor of Epidemiology Martin Kulldorff of Harvard, Professor of Epidemiology John Ionaddis of Stanford University, Dr. Malcom Kendrick of the UK, and the lightning rod for it all, Dr Scott Atlas.

I had not seen this interview until October 7, but it was done way back in July.

We may already have herd immunity – an interview with Professor of Epidemiology Sunetra Gupta

[emphasis added, excerpts from full interview]

21 July 2020

Are we already immune to coronavirus? Professor Sunetra Gupta, a theoretical epidemiologist at Oxford University, discusses her recent study on the herd immunity threshold, as well as her views on the social costs of lockdown, the inaccuracy of epidemiological models, and the curtailment of academic debate.

A study produced by a team at Oxford University indicated that some parts of the United Kingdom may already have reached herd immunity from coronavirus. A significant fraction of the population, according to the study published last week, may have “innate resistance or cross-protection from exposure to seasonal coronaviruses”, making the proportion vulnerable to coronavirus infection much smaller than previously thought.

The Oxford team is led by Sunetra Gupta, a professor of theoretical epidemiology. In recent months, she has argued that the cost of lockdown will be too high for the poorest in society and questioned the language and quality of debate on the pandemic’s impact

Q: In the debate over T-cell immunity or cross-reactivity with coronaviruses, the common-sense view is that exposure to things that are similar does give you some protection, and it seems to be borne out in recent studies.

...when the Covid-19 virus started to spread, I was pretty certain it wouldn’t have a huge, devastating impact in terms of mortality, because we had all these other coronaviruses circulating.... the pre-existing antibodies or T-cell responses against coronaviruses seem to protect against infection, not just the outcome of infection.

Q: It’s interesting that you mentioned folklore. In the West we have this idea that we want to eliminate disease – that there’s a heroic figure who intervenes and then resets the social order. In some parts of Asia there is a very different approach, it’s more about accommodating yourself to the natural world, and cultivating a more holistic view of how you live with disaster. Things like lockdown have their own folklore.

...It’s semi-religious, actually. I’m astonished at two things. One is the bellicose language used with respect to the virus, which does point to this desire to annihilate, which seems to me strange. Maybe it has something to do with coming from an eastern tradition, but I’d like to think it’s strange because we live with infectious diseases. We do accommodate infectious diseases into our social contract, really...

...people are treating it like an external disaster, like a hurricane or a tsunami, as if you can batten down the hatches and it will be gone eventually. That is simply not correct. The epidemic is an ecological relationship that we have to manage between ourselves and the virus...

....we’re not thinking about what’s happening with other infectious diseases or how many people are going to die of cancer. That’s the axis of disease, but then there’s the socioeconomic axis, which has been ignored. But there’s a third, aesthetic access, which is about how we want to live our lives. We are closing ourselves off not just to the disease, but to other aspects of being human.

Q: We talk about international travel as a disease vector, and talk about how we’ll never get back to that normal. It’s the sledgehammer idea that you can eliminate it by stopping mixing. It’s a kind of false trade-off.

I think the trade-off is very extreme. Obviously the most extreme manifestation of that trade-off is the 23 million people who will be pushed below the poverty line as a result of this sledgehammer approach. The costs to the arts is I think also incredibly profound – the theatres and all other forms of performing art. But also the inherent art of living, which I think is being compromised. Acts of kindness are being eschewed. Someone was telling me yesterday that their mother said to them “please don’t come home, you’re going to kill us”.

Q: The lockdown has been so successful that people are terrified. What do you think policymakers and politicians, and others such as yourself, can do to help us return to normal?

What politicians can do is maybe alter their language to reflect that we do live with risk, we have to make quite difficult decisions about trade-offs that exist between ways of life, between livelihoods, and sacrifices that have to be made at a societal level.

Q: There’s an essential sense of contamination that pervades everything. You see repeatedly people reacting with total vitriol to pictures of young people going to the park or the beach. How do you transform a collective sense of contamination and sin into something productive?

Maybe the way to counter it now is to say, actually, not only is it a good thing for young people to go out there and become immune, but that is almost their duty. It’s a way of living with this virus. It’s how we live with other viruses. Flu is clearly a very dangerous virus, but the reason we don’t see more deaths from flu every year is because, through herd immunity, the levels of infection are kept to as low a level as we can get.
[WIND: see Time to Steepen the Curve and Accelerate Infection of Low-Risk People ]

I think there is a way of living in a community where we do take some risk. We do the same with motorcars and whatnot. We say, ok there’s a risk, we’ll take it, because if we didn’t take that risk we’d be living our lives in a way we don’t want to.

Q: The expression “herd immunity” has entered the same realms as austerity and Brexit. It has become a sort of danger word because of that whole debate at the very beginning. The minute you say herd immunity, the popular newspapers say you want to kill all the old.

...The truth is that herd immunity is a way of preventing vulnerable people from dying. It is achieved at the expense of some people dying, and we can stop that by preventing the vulnerable class in the process. In an ideal situation, you would protect the vulnerable as best you can, let people go about their business, allow herd immunity to build up, make sure the economy doesn’t crash, make sure the arts are preserved, and make sure qualities of kindness and tolerance remain in place...

Q: How can journalists do better when reporting crude statistics that often come out? The framing of it is so crucial, and what you see so many times is people misreport and exaggerate stats.

Yes, I think the reporting has done us no favours and continues to remain that way....

These absurd comparisons between large countries and small countries. It’s not a song contest, it’s just absolutely ridiculous. It’s also very harmful. When you think of the US as a whole, you’re missing the fact that the epidemic appears to be over in the north east and growing in the south west. Why would you put them together? There’s no reason to lump a rise in cases in Arizona with everything else.

And then finally the whole business of reporting cases, which is deeply problematic because it depends on how many people have been tested in the first place and where they’re being tested. I’m not saying journalists shouldn’t report case numbers, it should just be heavily caveated. Deaths are deaths, but cases can be anything.

Q: What can states do better? There aren’t many examples of countries doing a ...To lockdown to keep something under control is, in the long term, quite misguided.

Q: Would you have kept the lockdown purely to care homes?

Certainly. Shielding the vulnerable is what we also got wrong. I think nations should follow both in the practical recommendations and the rhetoric of Sweden. They made the decision, and it was presented without the hubris of “this is the right thing to do”. They could have protected the care homes better perhaps, and we can’t get all of these things right, but we should try our best to shield the vulnerable.

Q: So you think that the New Zealand approach, eradicating the virus, is both functionally silly and also immoral?

...It seems to be very short-sighted, how can it possibly keep the virus out?

I think the smugness, the self-congratulation with which it’s presented is misplaced. The self-righteous attitude is completely ridiculous....what New Zealand will have done would be tantamount to not vaccinating your own child. Just waiting for everyone else to vaccinate their children and then go “ok it’s all safe now”.

Q: Do you think the social construct is repairable, can society bounce back from this terror, and can science bounce back?

I hope society can bounce back. We have shown great resilience, certainly in other times. It’ll be interesting to see how this all gets represented in the literature. There’s very little in literature in terms of the 1918 flu pandemic...

...At the moment, I personally feel that the calumny that’s been heaped on us that dare to disagree with what is believed to be a communitarian imperative, but to my mind is utterly individualistic, is really quite scary.

WIND: to speak out is to take on enormous career risk, if not personal risk. Which is why few professionals speak out. and why most “experts” should rightly be ignored—they are not credible.

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