White House officials have promoted a declaration supporting herd immunity that has reportedly been signed by fake names, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
In a Monday phone call, White House officials cited the Great Barrington Declaration, which argues that the government should push for herd immunity with more infections among the healthy population, according to two senior administration officials.
Supporters of the declaration use it to argue against lockdowns and more reopenings during the pandemic.
“Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health,” the declaration states.
“The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity, is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk.”
The declaration has been signed by 445,902 concerned citizens, 9,510 medical and public health scientists and 25,049 medical practitioners, according to its website. But Sky News found last week that dozens of fake names had signed the document, including Dr. I.P. Freely, Dr. Person Fakename and Dr. Johnny Bananas.
Another signatory called himself Dr. Harold Shipman, a general practitioner in the United Kingdom. In 1998, a man named Harold Shipman was arrested after killing more than 200 of his patients.
The declaration was also signed by at least 18 self-declared homeopaths who signed as medical practitioners and 100 therapists, including massage therapists, hypnotherapists and psychotherapists.
Several health experts expressed concerns that the declaration is misrepresenting the size of the medical community’s support for the herd immunity approach, according to Sky News.
Experts predict that 85 to 90 percent of the U.S. population has not developed coronavirus antibodies to fight the virus, countering the argument that the U.S. has reached or is close to reaching herd immunity, according to the Times.
In the past, herd immunity has been achieved with a vaccine, but the Great Barrington Declaration advocates using infections among young, healthy people, instead of elderly or vulnerable people, to reach immunity.
The White House did not immediately return a request for comment.
The Great Barrington Declaration was created after a meeting hosted by the American Institute for Economic Research and led by professor Martin Kulldorff, professor Jay Bhattacharya and professor Sunetra Gupta.
Bhattacharya, a professor of medicine at Stanford University, told Sky News that the declaration’s creators don’t have the resources “to audit each signature.”
“It is unfortunate that some people have abused our trust by adding false names, but I suppose it is inevitable,” he said.
“Still – given the volume of correspondence I have received from medical and public health professionals, as well as scientists and epidemiologists, it is clear that a very large number of experts resonate with the message of the declaration and its call for a focused protection policy,” he added.
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called the herd immunity approach on Monday “simply unethical,” saying it “is achieved by protecting people from a virus, not by exposing them to it.”