Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Professor Martin Kulldorff: We are throwing the working class under the bus

 Dr. Martin Kulldorff

In this interview with Reaction’s Deputy Editor Alastair Benn, Martin Kulldorff, Professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and leading figure in the field of infectious disease epidemiology, argues for an age-targeted response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Lockdowns result in too much collateral damage, he argues, and impose unreasonable costs on the working class and the young in particular. He also has some fascinating comments on the uses and misuses of “the science” in the debate over public health.

Alastair Benn: This week Boris Johnson urged the British public not to “throw in the sponge”, a boxing metaphor. How helpful is the language of conflict when we are trying to deal with a disease?

Martin Kulldorff: It is an enemy, in a sense, so we have to use the weaknesses of the virus against it. The key feature with Covid-19 is the huge difference in mortality between the old and the young. The older people among us have more than a thousand-fold risk of death compared to the youngest among us. We have to use that in order to deal with this virus. So that means we have to protect the elderly among us and other high-risk persons while we wait for herd immunity which will either come via a vaccine or natural infections or a combination of the two.

AB: The British government tends to stress that everybody is at a similar level of risk. So whenever there is a specific acknowledgement of the threat of Covid to the elderly, it is caveated with comments about how young people can get seriously ill too.

MK: This is very unhelpful. There is an enormous difference of risk. For older people this is much worse than the annual flu. For children the risks are much less than the annual flu. This is not a dangerous disease for children. We don’t close schools because of the annual flu. We don’t ban people from driving cars because there are people who die in car accidents. We let people live normal lives with standard precautions.

AB: How much mortality should we tolerate?

MK: It’s not a question of whether we choose to tolerate infectious diseases. They are a part of life and have been for thousands of years. We had pandemics in the past. We are going to have many more pandemics in the future. Instead of going into panic mode, what we have to do is look at the particular disease and respond with public health measures that minimise the deaths. We haven’t done that...

AB: I wonder whether there is a connection here with the way “the science” has often been invoked to mean suppressing the virus until there is a vaccine. Why do you think science has been used in this way?

MK: As a scientist I have worked with infectious disease outbreaks for a couple of decades. Then suddenly in the spring, I was hearing that we should “follow the science” by doing something that I think is contrary to science. That was absolutely stunning to me. I could not understand it. Maybe what happened was one or two epidemiologists would say something and then the media and politicians would fall on it and claim that that is “the science” and then one or two other scientists outside of the field of infectious disease epidemiology might agree to it.

Among my colleagues who I spoke with who are infectious disease epidemiologists, the majority are in favour of an age-targeted strategy. A minority are in favour of lockdowns and contact tracing. Those are the two different philosophies. There are many who are in favour of the age-targeted strategy like Sunetra Gupta at Oxford, Carl Heneghan at Oxford, and Francois Balloux at University College London, as well as many people in the US and other European countries.

Read the rest here.



  1. Prof Kulldorff still doesn't get it. He sees the difference between single patient health and public health but fails to see the profound difference between them. Single patient health is the health of a real individual person who can take specific actions to maintain their health. Public health is a concept, a label but not a real entity that can be acted upon except through the health of each individual one person at a time. And a one person at a time solution requires that each individual be free to choose. Not to be subject to the professor's "age-based" policy or any other mandated policy. If he had patients he might propose "age-based" solutions and his patients should have the freedom to chose. But for him to suggest there is a public policy solution suggests one size fits all mandates. And that is ass-backwards.

  2. The full article is worth the read. Thanks RW.

  3. Good advice from Prof Kulldorff. As usual. Disappointing to read Brian Erickson's comment. The onus should be on the lockdowners to defend their policy given it conflicted with their original pandemic plans, given that it was conceived when scientists knew much less about the virus and given lockdowners even now haven't provided a full accounting of their policy.