Yesterday, I spent a bit of your time writing about the Great Barrington Declaration which strives to create COVID-19 herd immunity, without a vaccine, by opening up the economy and allowing people to get infected. It was based on pseudoscience and callous disregard for the health of people across the world. Numerous other scientists showed their disdain for it like David Gorski and a friendly microbiologist.
I was going to move on to other things to discuss when it became clear that Donald Trump supports this pseudoscientific nonsense. Of course, Trump has promoted all kinds of equine feces about the coronavirus from pushing hydroxychloroquine to trying to take shortcuts in producing a vaccine.
Then it became clearer to me that trying to create COVID-19 herd immunity without a vaccine was worse than I thought. Maybe I’m buying into hyperbole, but I don’t think so. Let’s get into it.
COVID-19 herd effect
Herd immunity is the point at which enough people are immune to a particular infectious disease, by vaccination or infection, that the risk of the disease being transmitted through a community is reduced. It does not mean that there is no risk at a particular level of herd immunity, it’s just that the risk to non-immune people becomes quite low.
When I first heard of herd immunity being applied to COVID-19, I thought that it was just one of those random ideas that have been run up the flagpole and quickly dismissed. I kind of chuckled when I read it, because anti-vaxxers, who in the Venn diagram of science deniers overlap COVID-19 deniers, have long claimed that herd immunity is fake.
But let’s get back to the science of COVID-19 herd immunity. Depending on the virus’s basic reproduction rate (the infamous R0), the predicted herd immunity rate varies between viruses.
The herd immunity threshold is lower as the R0 is lower. Thus, the COVID-19 herd immunity threshold may be in the range of 60-75%, which is a much tighter range than initial estimates from May 2020. Right now, predicting the R0 for COVID-19 has been difficult, especially since testing for the disease still is not sufficient in many countries like the USA. To be safe, and to protect the vulnerable from the disease, we will probably have to be at the upper end of that range.
We are a long way from COVID-19 herd immunity
New evidence has been published that shows that we’re a long way from coronavirus herd immunity. An article published in the New York Times provided a visually striking view of the low number of people who are actually “immune” from the disease.
As we mentioned above, we probably need to reach around 60-75% of the population who are immune to the disease before we reach herd immunity. But even in cities like New York, which has been devastated by the disease, only about 20% of the population is immune. That means that COVID-19 can still spread quickly.
And the New York Times states that:
Some countries — notably Sweden, and briefly Britain — have experimented with limited lockdowns in an effort to build up immunity in their populations. But even in these places, recent studies indicate that no more than 7 to 17 percent of people have been infected so far.
COVID-19 deniers frequently use Sweden as their example of how the rest of us can keep our economies going and get herd immunity to protect everyone. That isn’t supported by any evidence whatsoever.
This is genocide
I know that the COVID-19 deniers’ professed goal is to get the economy back, so part of the reason for this push for COVID-19 herd immunity is purely economic. However, the intended or unintended consequence of this is mass genocide.
First, let’s look clearly at the definition of genocide:
…the deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or cultural group.
Currently, about 8 million Americans have contracted COVID-19, and are presumably immune – this means about 2-3% of Americans have contracted the disease. To reach a 60% COVID-19 herd immunity level, it probably means another 189 million Americans will need to contract the disease.
The current case fatality rate (CFR), or the proportion of deaths from COVID-19 compared to the total number of people diagnosed with it since February 2020, in the USA, is about 2.2-2.7%. That means for every 1000 people who contract COVID-19 about 22-27 will die.
If that CFR number holds (and it may be lower if there are actually a higher number of infections than have been diagnosed), there could be another 4 – 5 million additional deaths. And, as I wrote above, the majority of those deaths will be in seniors and persons of color. If that’s not fit the definition of genocide, I don’t know what to say.
I’m not trying to rely on hyperbole and exaggeration. We all know that anti-vaccine extremists, like Del Bigtree, use anti-semitic symbolism to make the false comparison of mass vaccination to The Holocaust. Six million European Jews were murdered in The Holocaust – there is robust evidence that less than five children have died from a vaccine.
As of today (15 October 2020), 216,000 Americans have died of COVID-19. That is a holocaust, not because I’m making a false equivalence to The Holocaust, but because 216,000 Americans have died, mostly because of bad decisions (or the lack of any decisions) by Donald Trump and his sycophants in the White House.
And now Trump and his immoral lackeys are pushing this COVID-19 that could lead to genocide on a level that I could not even imagine. I was born decades after World War II, but I was reminded daily of how many people across the world died in that horrible war.
Now, we are witnesses to people dying at a rate that is almost unimaginable, and it hasn’t slowed down. It makes me cry for all of these deaths.
A COVID-19 herd immunity, without a vaccine, is genocide. I’m frightened that this may be the strategy of leaders across the world.
- Fontanet A, Cauchemez S. COVID-19 herd immunity: where are we? Nat Rev Immunol. 2020 Oct;20(10):583-584. doi: 10.1038/s41577-020-00451-5. PMID: 32908300; PMCID: PMC7480627.
- Randolph HE, Barreiro LB. Herd Immunity: Understanding COVID-19. Immunity. 2020 May 19;52(5):737-741. doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2020.04.012. PMID: 32433946; PMCID: PMC7236739.
- Riou J, Althaus CL. Pattern of early human-to-human transmission of Wuhan 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), December 2019 to January 2020. Euro Surveill. 2020 Jan;25(4). doi: 10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2020.25.4.2000058. PubMed PMID: 32019669; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC7001239.