More doctors condemn herd immunity as ‘Freedom Day’ looms
Over a thousand doctors have added their signature to a letter published in the Lancet. The letter condemns the government’s current coronavirus approach. In particular it warns UK prime minister Boris Johnson that the loosening of lockdown restrictions on 19 July – so-called ‘Freedom Day’ – would lead to mass coronavirus (Covid-19) infections.
Now, a new study has shed further light on the number of people experiencing acute lung and kidney damage because of coronavirus.
The letter, first published on 7 July, says:
We believe the government is embarking on a dangerous and unethical experiment, and we call on it to pause plans to abandon mitigations on July 19, 2021.
More than a thousand doctors from across the world have subsequently added their names to the letter. And an appendix argues that the government’s coronavirus strategy is “herd immunity by infection”.
The appendix adds:
It is clear that COVID-19 is far more than a respiratory disease; it affects many body systems, including the brain, even in people who initially experienced only mild disease. Now that safe and highly effective vaccines are available, that protect people against severe disease and reduce transmission, it is unethical to expose people deliberately to risk of infection.
Indeed, The Canary previously reported how a UK study found that coronavirus appeared to lead to long-term loss of grey matter in the brain.
More collateral damage
Deepti Gurdasani, senior lecturer in epidemiology at Queen Mary University of London, points out that the government is “maximally” exposing young people to “a virus that causes chronic illness”:
Let's be under no illusions- we are in a country where our government is taking steps to maximally expose our young to a virus that causes chronic illness in many. Our govt is ending all protections for our children including isolation of contacts of cases in schools & bubbles.🧵 pic.twitter.com/w2GRXDWo04
— Deepti Gurdasani (@dgurdasani1) July 16, 2021
Professor Calum Semple is a child health and outbreak medicine specialist at University of Liverpool and a Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) member. He warns that some younger patients hospitalised with Covid are also experiencing lung and kidney damage. And he adds, “this is actually different to long Covid, this is acute Covid injury”.
A newly published paper in the Lancet reported on these and other complications that may arise from coronavirus. These included liver, kidney and heart conditions. Kidney injury and heart complications were more common with older patients. However, liver injury was more frequently found in patients less than 60 years old.
The paper concludes:
Common COVID-19 complications identified in this Article are known to be associated with long-term morbidity and an increased risk of death.
Herd immunity by default
Meanwhile Trisha Greenhalgh, professor of primary care at Oxford, tweeted how the ‘herd immunity’ approach should not apply to coronavirus:
Herd immunity rests on the notion that once you’ve been infected or vaccinated, you’re immune for life. This is not the case with Covid, which morphs and mutates and reinfects. Go figure.
— Trisha Greenhalgh (@trishgreenhalgh) July 11, 2021
Former chief scientific adviser and Independent Sage chair David King also condemns the herd immunity approach:
It is unbelievable that the UK government should embark on a herd immunity strategy that will see thousands of unnecessary deaths and severe long-term illness when so much progress has been made with the vaccination programme.
As we have said for over a year this strategy is completely wrong and does not reflect the best scientific or medical advice.
Meanwhile Richard Horton, the Lancet‘s editor-in-chief, has accused the government’s senior scientific and medical advisors of misrepresentation:
The faux deference that you saw from both of them [Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance] to the prime minister in trying to shore up his decision making, I thought, was an abdication of their independent role as government advisors.
I’m afraid I have to conclude that the chief medical officer is wilfully misrepresenting scientific opinion across the country, and that is extraordinary to observe.
Government giving up
Professor Christina Pagel is also a member of Independent Sage and is the director of UCL’s Clinical Operational Research Unit. She commented how the government has seemingly given up trying to control the pandemic:
Infectious diseases are a matter of collective, rather than personal, responsibility. As a society, we could choose to keep in place mask-wearing, some physical distancing and supported isolation of cases and contacts. We could choose to invest in ventilation in business and school buildings – a long-term public health benefit and a key mitigation against Covid. We could choose to suppress this virus over winter and protect our population and our NHS and so provide far more freedom to go about our daily lives. The current government position is that it’s not even going to try. This is not good enough and we have to demand better.
Instead, she argues that certain counter-measures are needed, including “strategic testing, contact tracing and supported isolation”. Also, she advised a “continued requirement to work from home where possible” and “a return to outdoor dining”. She also advocates compulsory mask-wearing in secondary schools and recommends financial support for “people and businesses affected” by coronavirus.
The British Medical Association reports that thousands of doctors are now demanding that social distancing and face masks should remain mandatory.
Greenhalgh helpfully provided a detailed explanation as to why mask wearing is so essential on Twitter:
LONG THREAD on masks. Mute if not interested.
Do masks work? Why do some people claim they don’t work? Do they cause harm? What kinds of masks should we wear? How does masking need to change now we know that Covid is airborne? When can we stop wearing them?
Get your popcorn.
— Trisha Greenhalgh (@trishgreenhalgh) July 11, 2021
UK as a super spreader
An emergency summit followed the updated letter to the Lancet. At the summit, Pagel warned that given it’s a global travel hub, any coronavirus variant prevalent in the UK will likely spread to other parts of the world, as did Alpha and she believed also Delta:
Arguably, Johnson’s current pandemic strategy is straight out of Margaret Thatcher’s playbook. It places responsibility – or blame – for what happens in the pandemic squarely with the individual, not the state.
This is nothing short of dereliction of duty by government. And it will potentially see not just thousands more deaths, but long-term chronic health conditions affecting hundreds of thousands.
Featured image via YouTube
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