The Great Barrington Declaration is a statement written and originally signed by 3 top professionals from highly respected institutions (now signed by some 1000's of medical professionals globally, and an unknown number of fake signatures as well) outlining an alternative approach to managing the COVID-19 pandemic. The declaration essentially argues that the lockdowns imposed cause greater harm than a lesser-mitigated covid pandemic ever could. Many outlets claim it is "unscientific", yet I've seen no evidence to verify this claim. It doesn't seem to make any false statements I can find, and at least some I can independently find data to confirm. Or is the claim simply they don't cite their research? (edit, they cite a good amount of research in their FAQ, but I do question whether that alone answers the question fully)

Some specific claims to challenge if the entirety of the declaration is too broad:

We know that vulnerability to death from COVID-19 is more than a thousand-fold higher in the old and infirm than the young. Indeed, for children, COVID-19 is less dangerous than many other harms, including influenza.

As far as I know, CDC data supports this claim fully.

A second specific claim:

As immunity builds in the population, the risk of infection to all – including the vulnerable – falls. 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.

This would generally reference the entire history of virology as a science; maybe someone can provide something specific to determine the validity of this statement one way or another?

And a third:

The results (to name a few) include lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings and deteriorating mental health – leading to greater excess mortality in years to come, with the working class and younger members of society carrying the heaviest burden.

I've seen data to confirm this assertion that I cannot find this afternoon (but will add later if possible), but nothing to deny it to date.

Is there any hard evidence that any one of the three statements above, or the declaration as a whole is unscientific and/or untrue? I know the phrase "unscientific" may be a sticking point, so maybe a better phrasing is, does the declaration make false statements? Given science is the unbiased pursuit of truth through the scientific method I hope we can understand them similarly in reviewing this question. Or please frame challenge that assumption for me.

Here are a few claims the declaration, as a whole, is "unscientific"; 1, 2, 3

This LA Times editorial went so far as to name it a hoax, before updating the title.

Not asking if it is unethical, I think that is far outside the scope of this QA, and strictly opinion based; with myriad ethical dilemma presented by either option.

This is my first question in this exchange, I tried to follow the guidelines but am very open to changes and editing if the question doesn't fall within the community guidelines - please communicate :)

EDIT: Some comments have made me think more about this, I think a simplified version of the question is simply: from a factual perspective is the Great Barrington Declaration a valid option worth considering as a method for managing Covid-19, or is it baseless and "unscientific" as claimed by several main stream media sources?

  • Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – TCooper
    Nov 11, 2020 at 1:40
  • The lockdowns which were actually imposed, or the ideal lockdown that the government won't do because they're idiots? (something something New Zealand)
    – user253751
    Nov 11, 2020 at 14:00
  • 1
    @TCooper. I saw your other GBD question -- I'm surprised there hasn't been more discussion of it here. I added another GBD question. I'd like to address other issues with the GBD, but am not sure how. I don't know if logical errors and BS are within the scope of Skeptics. I think they attack strawmen and distort the definition of terms like 'herd immunity'. I'll see if I can think of ways to ask good questions on those topics.
    – adam.r
    Nov 14, 2020 at 2:49

1 Answer 1


It is unscientific becasue it is conclusionary with no cited research. A conclusion is presented by some very well credentialed professionals, who might possibly be correct, but they do not show their work. To make this recommendation scientific the increased deaths it implies would need to be modeled/quantified and offset by some quantification of the benefits to the economy, mental health, educational gains, etc.

Those positive attributes are hard to quantify but no attempt is made to do so. And tellingly, it does not contain any estimate of the increased deaths due to their recommendations. Some have put this at 4 million. A somewhat scientific news article in Nature quotes a lower 1-2 million estimate.

Another factor that would need to be part of a quantitative analysis is the rate and duration of immunity from contracting the condition. There are numerous possible other considerations - deaths from people going crazy in lock down on one side, hospitals way over capacity causing deaths from other conditions on the other side and many, many more.

To be a scientific recommendation some quantification and comparison of the benefits, harms and reasonably foreseeable risks would need to be shown. And then compared to the alternative approaches.

  • 1
    Thank you for the answer, I do think it makes more sense to force the burden of proof on the claim (show loss of life exceeds 3-4million from lockdown vs opening). I'd like to investigate this idea further, but truly appreciate your explanation. +1
    – TCooper
    Nov 11, 2020 at 1:37
  • I do question the lack of mention of increased deaths caused by lockdowns. i.e. it's well established in the UK the rate of early detection of lung cancer has dropped drastically, leading to more late diagnosis etc. I don't have quantification for that and don't intend this to be a refutation, but maybe add excessive death caused by lockdown as another factor involved in the offset of the increased deaths opening implies. Also, what factors are considered to show the 4 million (paywall)? It seems a high estimate given 42% of US deaths are in nursing homes (or similar)
    – TCooper
    Nov 11, 2020 at 1:47
  • 2
    @TCooper - I do not disagree. Notice that your comments have more analytical content than the document in question Nov 11, 2020 at 1:55
  • @TCooper - I have made some edits based on your comments. Note that the 42% in nursing homes is under the current approach. A no-mask, no-lockdown, open the bars approach designed to accelerate the spread would presumably change that. Nov 11, 2020 at 2:53
  • 3
    @Oddthinking There may be a very rigorous scientific analysis that supports the conclusion of the "declaration". I would very much like to read it. It is not contained or referenced in the declaration so, right or wrong, it is not a scientific document. I do not think it purports to be a scientific document. That a scientific analysis of two options would require comparison of numbers does not need a reference, in my opinion. Nov 11, 2020 at 3:56

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