Martin Kulldorff: Doctor’s criticism off-base

Published: 1/11/2021 4:24:25 PM
Modified: 1/11/2021 4:24:03 PM

In a Jan. 1 Gazette letter by Northampton physician Shelly Berkowitz, there are several factual errors.

With two other infectious disease epidemiologists, I co-authored the Great Barrington Declaration that calls for better protection of high-risk elderly while ending lockdowns, for example by opening schools and universities for in-person teaching.

Berkowitz’ claim that billionaire Charles Koch funded the Declaration is false. We received no money to write the Declaration. No organization influenced its content. We have no ties to the Koch brothers. Ironically, the opposite is true, as the Koch funded Mercatus Center gave money to pro-lockdown modeler Neal Ferguson at Imperial College.

Lockdowns have been profitable for big business while throwing the working class under the bus, with inner-city working class being hardest hit. It is therefore understandable that many Pioneer Valley progressives question the wisdom of lockdowns, including teachers and the fine folks at blogs.umass.edu/covidbalance.

Berkowitz uses Sweden as an example of a failed pandemic strategy, but despite an older population, the reported COVID-19 mortality of 850/million is less than both Massachusetts (1,800/million) and the United States (1,020/million). Neighboring Finland and Norway locked down less than Sweden and report even lower mortality.

Sweden received international criticism for keeping schools open for all children ages 1-15 throughout the height of the pandemic. This led to zero COVID-19 deaths among the 1.8 million Swedish children in this age group, while teachers had the same risk as the average of other professions.

There are no public health reasons to keep schools closed, while the negative consequences for children are devastating, not only in terms of missed education, but also on their physical health, mental health, and social development. Working- and middle-class children are most effected, as their parents cannot afford tutors, pod-schools or private schools. The Great Barrington Declaration was written with these and similar concerns in mind. Co-author and Oxford professor Sunetra Gupta is the world’s pre-eminent infectious disease epidemiologist. For Berkowitz to accuse her of “pseudo-scientific fraud” is laughable. I urge everyone to read Dr. Gupta’s thoughts on the pandemic.

Martin Kulldorff

Boston

The writer is a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

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