This is about the Great “enough is enough” Barrington Declaration about the collateral damage caused by COVID-19 lockdowns:
The [Barrington] declaration publicly exposed a scientific disagreement that has been simmering for months. On one side are mainstream scientists who reluctantly see restrictions on freedom as the only way to keep a lid on the pandemic while we wait for vaccines; on the other, the libertarians who see the damage done to economies and individual lives as too high a price.
The mainstream media lapped up the disagreement narrative, but completely missed the fundamental problem with the declaration: its extremely dubious claims about herd immunity. This is central to the strategy, but the document badly fluffs the science.Graham Lawton, “It is bad science to say covid-19 infections will create herd immunity” at New Scientist
Maybe. But why believe New Scientist? Isn’t science now just politics under another name?
Our physics color commentator Rob Sheldon writes to say,
We wonder how Nature or Science can be so desperate as to throw away its reputation to politicize science. They gave away the farm when they said in effect “We support X because he TRUSTS in truth, evidence, science…” But “Trust in truth” is a very odd thing to say when one could just as well have said, “Find the truth”, or “Hold fast to the truth”, where truth is an unchangable fact rather than a malleable opinion or “personal”.
I don’t think I’ve ever heard a judge address the jury by saying “trust in truth” or “trust in evidence”. We are assigning agency to “truth” rather than assigning existence to truth–we are making truth a person rather than an objective fact. So the religion of science, the deification of science, is more important than “seeking truth” or “finding evidence”
But more to the point of this article, the author claims that “herd immunity” requires 60-70% of the population be infected, which is a model-dependent number. Surely the author knows that, since he quotes R, the infectiousness of a disease, as the controlling factor. But we find R by inverting a model–we see how many people are infected, and use the model to back out R.
If, as at least one paper has suggested, we recognize that some people are more socially engaged than others, then the heterogeneity of the population means only the most sociable people need to be vaccinated. Once the “super-spreaders” are immune, the disease doesn’t spread very fast. So “herd immunity” is achieved at perhaps 15-20% of the population. Current anti-body tests are showing that Sweden is close to that number.
In other words, we have the data to improve our models and the Greater Barrington declaration suggests that we should, since the DATA from Sweden show that lockdowns are neither necessary nor even helpful. But this author suggests that the models are perfect, and therefore the data must be rejected in the name of science, of course.
He is displaying, even in his own scientific subfield, the same TRUST in science, that we disparaged in Nature. The disease of deification begun by Darwin is far more pervasive than anyone wants to admit. You might say that herd immunity hasn’t yet been reached.
Rob Sheldon is the author of Genesis: The Long Ascent and The Long Ascent, Volume II
Here’s the Declaration in many languages.
12 Replies to “And now… New Scientist tells us herd immunity is “bad science”… Rob Sheldon responds”
Errm, OK. Does Rob Sheldon have a reference to show that only identifying super-spreaders will reduce R to <1? And that the people in Sweden who have been infected are the "right" ones? And can we identify the potential super-spreaders? If not, wouldn't it be better to reduce social contact, through social distancing and also use other methods to reduce transmission, such as mask wearing?
Also, what do we do until we get a vaccine?
I guess this is true if you think that saving lives is not helpful. According to the data, Sweden had over 20% excess deaths for about 2 months, with 47% more deaths in the worst week. Its neighbours (Norway, Finland and Denmark), who did lock down, had 13% excess deaths at worse.
FWIW, none of the neighbours have lockdowns now. They were vital to slow the spead of Covid-19 whilst the governments got their testing and tracking programmes in place, and whilst we all learned to wash our hands and socially distance.
The projections for Sweden were millions of dead. They are under 6000. They went for herd immunity and reached it. They took the initial hit and had death spikes in April. Since then, the deaths leveled off to almost nothing. Their immune systems recognize the virus.
We don’t need data from anywhere. We have 100 years of REAL science and REAL public health, which constantly shows that humans have a mysterious thing called an “immune system”. Humans haven’t “evolved” since March 2020, and viruses haven’t “evolved” since March 2020. Nothing in the real world has changed. The only thing that has changed is the former discipline formerly called “medicine”, which has now become the exact science of efficient holocausts.
BobRyan – where are these predictions of millions dead in Sweden? Even for the US the predictions were 2.1m if nothing was done.
If you actually look at the webpage you linked to, you’ll see that cases are increasing in Sweden. This would not be happening if they had reached herd immunity. The whole point of herd immunity is, after all, that it means that R is below 1.
What to do until there is a vaccine? Take your vitamins and minerals. COVID-19 can be fought with OTC supplements, along with healthy eating an living.
A vaccine may not work given the ongoing evolutionary changes to the virus. But what I said above will work even through those changes.
Whether herd immunity is a good or bad strategy, it is not bad science. No one – as is abundantly clear – really knew what to do. Different groups trying different strategies and seeing what works makes sense. The jury will surely be out for couple of years, as COVID-19 works its way through the system.
I am glad if few readers had to cheer on the clown car from Canada. If that’s science, to heck with science. Except, of course, it wasn’t science. It was panic, doubled down by Correctness. Learning real lessons means evaluating a broad range of strategies. So we should be thankful if there IS a broad range and we can get honest results.
Fortunately, social distancing is about the easiest thing Canadians can do… That’s probably the main reason it wasn’t much worse here.
Responding to some of your questions.
a) The discussion of herd immunity can be found by simply googling. BobO’H, go to “Google.com” and type in the search bar “Sweden herd immunity”. Then when the page opens, read the links until you see one on “less than expected”. And no, I don’t know why I have to tell you this.
b) “that infected people in sweden are the right ones?”
That’s the beauty of system Bob, the “right ones” are the superspreaders, so of course they get infected first. It’s simple math. If person A meets 10 people a day who each have a 0.01 probability of carrying Covid; and person B meets 1000 people a day who each have a 0.01 probability of carrying covid, which person has the higher probability of getting infected? Which one is the super spreader?
Great, you answered your own question and the next one.
c) wouldn’t social distancing be safer?
Well let’s see. Suppose everyone wears a mask. Now the probability of catching the disease is reduced, say, by 10. Person A meets 10 masked people, 0.01 have the virus, 0.1 can transmit it to him. Person B meets 1000 masked people. Who is most likely to get ill? Who is most likely to be a super-spreader? Umm, same answers.
Oh, says Bob, but now the R is reduced to 1, so obviously the epidemic is over.
Well, R is computed from the entire time that people are infectious, which is some 2 weeks, I’ve been told (thought all this “data” is model-dependent). So in reality, if person B gets the virus, even masked he spreads it to 14 people. So what we see is that masks actually target superspreaders even better than before.
That is, if masks actually work. WHO announced that 75% of people who contracted Covid in July said they “always wear a mask”. And there is no evidence that cities demanding masks –NYC— had any smaller R than those that didn’t–Dallas, Miami. In fact, I have yet to see a correlation of R with mask mandates.
d) cases going up?
Yes, I know its a surprise Bob, but cases are always going up. That’s because you can’t undo a case. You probably meant “case rate” is going up. But that is often because of better testing that catches non-symptomatic people. It has nothing to do with actual sick people. The number you really need to look at is “rate of hospitalizations”, “ICU beds” or “death rates”. And those aren’t going up. Look at the worldometer site for Sweden. They even have a graph.
e) Sweden excess deaths?
I didn’t have the Swedish medical records, but I went to the US CDC and looked at deaths by heart attack, deaths by stroke, deaths by diabetes, and they were all up during the first half of 2020. Using the previous years rates to project a baseline, the excess deaths over that baseline due to not getting ambulance/ER treatment was GREATER than the deaths due to Covid. This is CDC data. Nurses and medical doctors of my acquaintance said the hospital was empty, nurses laid off, no heart patients to visit. So the lockdown was principally responsible for those excess deaths–that and the fear to call an ambulance instilled in the population by those advocating lockdowns.
Therefore Bob, I would argue that it is people like you who are responsible for the excess deaths–not Swedish decisions to stay open.
And I won’t even get into the states that demanded sick patients be sent back to their nursing homes to spread the disease.
Let’s remember the Diamond Princess Cruise Ship.
20% contacted the disease. Why didn’t the other 80% do so? A little less than half the cases were asymptomatic. So, 11-12% effectively got ill. So why, then, do we need 70-80% to get Covid before herd immunity develops?
And, just guesstimating, it looks like an equal percentage of crew members came down sick as did passengers. This means that likely everyone on board had been exposed to the virus–how were they going to get away from it. So, whence the immunity. They were onboard together for a long time.
And, have you read anything at all about T-cell immunity?
Genomic evidence for reinfection with SARS-CoV-2: a case study– a vaccine for the first virus most likely wouldn’t have worked to prevent the second. OTC supplements don’t care, though. They will beat back both versions and influenza, too.
That Darwinists on UD, who wouldn’t know real science if it bit them on the rear end, are pushing so hard for lockdowns tells me all I need to know about the supposed ‘science’ behind lockdowns.
Of related note to the Barrington declaration:
So, to respond ro Rob’s response @7. I asked the following:
Which Rob ignored, so I guess he doesn’t.
To which Rob responds “That’s the beauty of system Bob, the “right ones” are the superspreaders, so of course they get infected first. It’s simple math.”
I think he needs less simplistic maths. A bit of googling leads to this article in Science which suggests that super-spreading can be represented by a dispersion parameter, k, and suggests it might be around 0.1. This is the dispersion parameter in a negative binomial distribution: the lower it is, the more dispersion. For the same mean, more dispersion means that some infected individuals infect a lot more people, but other people (indeed many more people) don’t infect anyone. Indeed, a quick calculation using R=2 and k=0.3 suggests that 54% of people would not infect anyone else (with R=2 and, as the Science article suggests, k=0.1, about three quarters of people wouldn’t infect anyone else). So no, these are not the super-spreaders.
We now know that simply “the people who are infected” is false.
Rob responds by ignoring reducing social distancing, and going on about how masks target super-spreaders. But never answers the question of whether social distancing will reduce R more effectively.
Also, what do we do until we get a vaccine?
Rob also responds to me pointing out that cases are going up (by which I meant new cases) with “But that is often because of better testing that catches non-symptomatic people. It has nothing to do with actual sick people.”. But hospitalisations aren’t a good guide either, because severity is age dependent, and one thing the Swedes have acknowledged is that early on they didn’t protect the elderly very well.
It’s also worth pointing out that testing went down in September in Sweden whilst the number of new cases increased, which suggests (albeit not definitively) that actual rates are increasing. The age distribution of cases would be interesting to look at, but it’s Saturday evening, so I’m not going to try to trawl the web for this data, sorry.
And finally, Rob’s argument on excess deaths in Sweden: ignore Sweden and conclude that in the US “So the lockdown was principally responsible for those excess deaths–that and the fear to call an ambulance instilled in the population by those advocating lockdowns.”. Can anyone spot the problem with this argument, as it pertains to Sweden? Yes, that’s right. Sweden didn’t lock down but its neighbours (with lower excess deaths) did.
What do we do until we get a vaccine? Take our vitamins and minerals as outlined in the EVMS covid-19 critical care protocol. That alone would have spared well more than half of the fatalities.