Newly exposed emails show outgoing National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins commanding Dr. Anthony Fauci to carry out a "quick and devastating" takedown of a statement by public health experts calling for "focused protection" of the most vulnerable populations. Emails show that Fauci would indeed attack the declaration.
What is the Great Barrington Declaration?
Infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists authored the Great Barrington Declaration, a document that argues against COVID-19 lockdowns that was released on Oct. 4, 2020.
"Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health," the declaration stated. "Keeping these measures in place until a vaccine is available will cause irreparable damage, with the underprivileged disproportionately harmed."
"As immunity builds in the population, the risk of infection to all – including the vulnerable – falls," the epidemiologists wrote. "We know that all populations will eventually reach herd immunity – i.e. the point at which the rate of new infections is stable – and that this can be assisted by (but is not dependent upon) a vaccine. Our goal should therefore be to minimize mortality and social harm until we reach herd immunity."
More than 15,000 medical and public health scientists have allegedly signed the Great Barrington Declaration and over 45,000 medical practitioners have endorsed the document. The health advice in the Great Barrington Declaration was the complete opposite of what top U.S. public officials espoused.
A 'quick and devastating' takedown is ordered
Four days after the Great Barrington Declaration was released, Collins instructed Fauci and Clifford Lane — the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Deputy Director for Clinical Research and Special Projects — to engage in a "takedown" of the anti-lockdown declaration, according to emails.
The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis obtained and released emails between the public health officials.
"This proposal from three fringe epidemiologists who met with the Secretary seems to be getting a lot of attention — and even a co-signature from Nobel Prize winner Mike Leavitt at Stanford," Collins wrote in an email sent on Oct. 8, 2020.
"There needs to be a quick and devastating takedown of its premises,” Collins wrote in reference to the Great Barrington Declaration.
How did Dr. Anthony Fauci respond?
Fauci responded to Collins' direction by promoting a Wired U.K. article with the headline: "There is no 'scientific divide' over herd immunity."
Phil Magness — senior research faculty and interim research and education director at the American Institute for Economic Research – noted that the Wired U.K. article from October 2020 stated that the Great Barrington Declaration is irrelevant because lockdowns are in the "past."
Fauci then shared an article from progressive The Nation titled: "Focused Protection, Herd Immunity, and Other Deadly Delusions."
"But Kulldorff, Bhattacharya, and Gupta’s plan, enshrined as the Great Barrington Declaration unveiled at the American Institute for Economic Research this week, is not the way forward," the article read. "If we’re going to build toward a new politics of care, it will be by relying on progressive principles of justice and equality—not some notion of the survival of the young and the fittest."
Gregg Gonsalves — the author of The Nation article — reportedly emailed Collins to "thank" him for speaking out against the Great Barrington Declaration and for "doing it 'undiplomatically.'" Gonsalves also agreed in calling the GBD epidemiologists "fringe."
Fauci attacked the Great Barrington Declaration during an ABC News appearance on Oct. 15, 2020.
"That declaration has a couple things in it that I think are fooling people, because it says things that are like apple pie and motherhood," Fauci told ABC News. "A, we don't want to shut down the country. I say that all the time. B, we do certainly want to protect the vulnerable."
Fauci sent an email to White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah Birx on Oct. 16, 2020.
"Over the past week I have come out very strongly publicly against the "Great Barrington Declaration,'" Fauci wrote, adding that he will "connect" with her "later today or over the weekend."
Who are the 'fringe' epidemiologists?
Collins described the authors of the Great Barrington Declaration as "fringe."
The three "fringe" epidemiologists are Martin Kulldorff, Ph.D., an epidemiologist at Harvard University, Sunetra Gupta, Ph.D., an epidemiologist at Oxford University, and Jay Bhattacharya, MD, Ph.D., a professor and public health policy expert at Stanford University.
Bhattacharya reacted to Collins' email by writing on Twitter, "So now I know what it feels like to be the subject of a propaganda attack by my own government. Discussion and engagement would have been a better path."
Kulldorff responded by saying, "A year ago, @NIHDirector Francis Collins asked Fauci to do a 'devastating published take down' of the Great Barrington Declaration. A public debate would have been better. Invitation still open."
Gupta has yet to issue a statement, but she retweeted the above statements made by colleagues.
Dr. Francis Collins attempts to defend his 'takedown'
The House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis said Collins "expressed deep concerns about the herd immunity strategy being advocated by these 'fringe epidemiologists.'"
Collins was asked about the "takedown" during a Fox News interview on Friday, to which he replied, "Well, OK, if it’s that specific. There were people [like] Scott Atlas that said don’t worry about this business of putting on masks or asking people to isolate themselves or stay distanced. Let it rip. Let this virus run through the country until everybody has had it, and we’ll have herd immunity.'"
Atlas — who was an advisor on former President Donald Trump's White House Coronavirus Task Force — does not show up as one of the prominent signatories on the Great Barrington Declaration website.