Other scientists have been disputing the calls, claiming that herd immunity is “very unlikely” before a vaccine is found
Top scientists have been calling for a herd immunity approach to the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK by allowing people who are less vulnerable to the effects of the coronavirus to return to normal life.
Leading experts from the universities of Oxford, Nottingham, Edinburgh, Exeter, Cambridge, Sussex and York, signed the so-called Great Barrington declaration, suggesting that herd immunity in the United Kingdom could be the way forward.
But other scientists have described the idea of “focused protection” as “wishful thinking”.
This comes after Nottingham City Council has been urging people within the city to follow stricter guidelines as the number of COVID-19 cases at universities within the region continues to rise.
The group leader of the cell biology of infection laboratory at the Francis Crick Institute, Dr Rupert Beale, says that herd immunity is “very unlikely” before a COVID-19 vaccine is found.
The declaration states: “The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity, is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to coronavirus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk.”
“We call this focused protection.”
The negative impact of the lockdowns listed include lower vaccination rates in children, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, as well as fewer cancer screenings and deteriorating mental health, which the declaration claims will lead to greater excess mortality in years to come, effecting working class people and young people the most.
The declaration follows some comments that were made by Sir Simon Stevens, the leader of the NHS in England, who said that asking all over-65s to shield would be “age-based apartheid”.
He said: “This declaration prioritises just one aspect of a sensible strategy – protecting the vulnerable – and suggests we can safely build up ‘herd immunity’ in the rest of the population.”
“This is wishful thinking. It is not possible to fully identify vulnerable individuals, and it is not possible to fully isolate them.”
“Furthermore, we know that immunity to coronaviruses wanes over time, and re-infection is possible – so lasting protection of vulnerable individuals by establishing ‘herd immunity’ is very unlikely to be achieved in the absence of a vaccine.”
This comes after Boris Johnson has dismissed the claims that COVID-19 has “robbed me of my mojo”as the PM announced promises for social care and green energy, as well as housing during his speech at the Conservative Party conference.
Other critics have said that the declaration ignores the growing evidence on “long COVID”, in which otherwise healthy individuals who contract the coronavirus are left with debilitating long-term symptoms, sometimes for months after a mild infection.