John Snow Memorandum versus Great Barrington Declaration

Lead authors of the Great Barrington Declaration: Profs. Kulldorf, Gupta, Bhattacharya

Published: December 15, 2020
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In October, leading Western public health experts published two competing declarations on covid-19 response policy: the Great Barrington Declaration (GBD) and the John Snow Memorandum (JSM).

But both missed the most important point.

The GBD argued against lockdowns and instead advocated “focused protection” of high-risk groups. In response, the JSM argued that focused protection is a  “dangerous fallacy” and that “effective measures that suppress and control transmission need to be implemented widely”.

The JSM named three supposed models: Japan, Vietnam and New Zealand. But the JSM failed to mention that all of these had implemented early border controls, two are islands, and two never did any mass PCR testing. They could thus not be models for Western nations.

This is why the JSM had to fail: it proposed ineffective measures and neglected the protection of high-risk groups. But the JSM was correct in arguing that “focused protection” is nearly impossible in high-incidence environments. This is why the GBD mostly failed, too.

What both the GBD and the JSM failed to mention is the critical importance of prophylaxis and early treatment for the protection of high-risk groups. By now, dozens of studies have shown that early treatment can reduce hospitalizations and deaths even in nursing homes by up to 90%.

Absent early border controls – which among Western countries only Norway and Finland plus a few islands have been able to implement – and highly disruptive measures like total lockdowns, early and prophylactic treatment of high-risk groups is really the only effective measure available to date.

Unfortunately, it is also the one measure most resisted by Western health authorities.

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