Professor of Epidemiology: “The WHO must now atone for its Covid lockdown mistakes”

The covid repression

Published 29 March 2024
- By Editorial Staff
Gupta says that in many cases, the efforts of the WHO and similar organizations risk making the situation worse.

Sunetra Gupta is a veteran infectious disease epidemiologist and professor of theoretical epidemiology at Oxford University.

She believes it is time for the World Health Organization (WHO) to make amends for its damaging advice during the covid-19 lockdowns – and that it is high time to heed the warnings of those countries that depend entirely on the WHO to provide basic health care to their citizens.

Gupta points out that the WHO has insisted that herd immunity can only be achieved “by vaccination, not by allowing a disease to spread through a segment of the population” – something that Gupta says goes completely against science, which shows that “natural immunity is the primary way to achieve and maintain endemicity for viruses like covid, which do not confer lifelong immunity to infection”.

“My Wikipedia page (which, as we all know, is impossible to correct) continues to purport that the focused protection strategy, which I and others advocated through the Great Barrington Declaration, is “dangerous, unethical, and lacks a sound scientific basis”, in spite of the mounting evidence of the harms of lockdown and the feasibility of reducing individual risk among the vulnerable”, she writes in an opinion piece in The Telegraph.

Gupta also points out that the WHO’s chief scientist, Jeremy Farrar, has vilified and demonized those who have dared to point out that the harms of the lockdown policy far outweigh the benefits.

“And yet, I am unmoved by efforts on part of spokespersons from developed countries to challenge the efforts of the WHO to put in place a ‘pandemic prevention, preparedness and response accord‘”, she continues.

“Complacent statements”

She admits that a global agreement on pandemic response could indeed be “enormously useful” if based on logical principles – such as remote islands closing their borders until a vaccine is available to protect their vulnerable populations.

“[…] We could have supported them to mitigate the costs of shutting borders (especially for an economy that is dependent on tourism), and they might have in turn conducted extensive safety and immunogenicity trials to advance our vaccine development efforts. […] Instead, we were obliged to endure egregiously self-congratulatory pronouncements from the leaders of these geographically isolated human settlements, and the obtuse endorsements of both the experts and the general public living in areas where it was clear that closing borders to keep the virus out was no longer an option”.

She says “the fundamental problem” is “a profound misunderstanding” of how covid-19 unfolded and “what measures should have been taken to minimise its harms”.

Gupta also believes that while the public is becoming increasingly aware that lockdowns are a wholly inappropriate tool for dealing with viruses like covid-19, which has a very low mortality rate in the vast majority of cases, there is still reason to be optimistic that WHO can return to its former principles of trying to “use our collective resources to effect the greatest good for the world’s population”.

Could make things worse

“A much greater threat resides in the potential enactment of these policies in the Global South, and we need to listen very carefully to the warnings that issue from countries which are beholden to the WHO for the delivery of basic healthcare and life-saving vaccines. These are the regions which are vulnerable to the effects of treaties composed, even in good faith, to “prevent and prepare” for pandemics. Such interventions can leave these countries immeasurably worse off”, she warns.

“The WHO has made some very embarrassing mistakes in its response to the Covid pandemic, in what might be described as a paroxysm of philanthrocapitalism, but I am not sure that railing against the proposed treaty will encourage the course correction that is needed. It is, however, an opportunity for the Global South to highlight the striking power imbalance that exists in the distribution of health, as well as wealth, and how even the most well-meaning efforts of international organisations can serve to exacerbate these existing inequalities”, the professor concludes.

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