"People will forgive you for being wrong, but they will never forgive you for being right—especially if events prove you right while proving them wrong." -Thomas Sowell
It is becoming clear that Sweden had the correct public health approach to the COVID-19 pandemic; the rest of the world – not so much. Sweden did not allow fear to drive public policy and “listened to the experts” who in turn, utilized knowledge of past pandemics and real data instead of speculative, predictive modeling to guide their decision making. Sweden has acknowledged mistakes early by not adequately protecting their large elderly demographic in assisted living facilities. However, they did not close their schools, economy or require masking of the general public. It is time to acknowledge that Sweden’s response was not irresponsible or foolish by allowing a targeted “herd immunity” policy. Immunity reduces transmissibility in a population and is the way out of this pandemic. Based upon the epidemiology data below, it appears that they are well on their way to achieving community immunity. Sweden has averaged less than 1 death per day over the last week and they have a population with over 10 million people. They do not waste resources by testing asymptomatic citizens.
Population of Sweden: 10.1 million
It appears that New York’s daily deaths have flattened as well since their April catastrophe. Now, try this simple math problem. Multiply the number of deaths in Sweden by the New York/Sweden population ratio of 1.8. You will find a number approximating 10,815 deaths as opposed to New York’s recorded 32,937 deaths. In other words, Sweden had less than 1/3 the infection fatality per capita of New York to date without masks, closing schools or businesses.
Population of New York: 18.8 million
Sweden’s experience should call into question the conventional wisdom of our current public health response. Unfortunately, policy makers seem to be overly invested in counting cases and elevating predictive modeling approaches. Serology (antibody) testing does not accurately determine the prevalence of the disease in a population because some studies have shown that as many as 40% of the people who contract COVID do not develop antibodies. Other research suggests more people develop unmeasured cellular immunity at nearly twice the rate of humoral (antibody) immunity. Finally, statistical modeling has not accounted for those who are not susceptible to the virus due to cross immunity from other coronaviruses.
So why do many public health officials claim to know that the prevalence of this disease is very low in a population and then estimate the number of future deaths based upon how many they think are still susceptible? Critical thinking seems to be lacking here. I suggest that herd immunity will be obtained in a population when we observe the number of deaths per week flatten or we can accurately measure both total humoral and cellular immunity in a population.
Meanwhile, officials ignore the self-inflicted poverty pandemic that is devastating the lives of citizens due to our restrictive public health response. We should target our resources for the vulnerable people and let the public reengage. Schools should resume normally regardless if there are 9 COVID cases or 40 cases per 100K in a population. Sweden and most other countries have returned their children to school without any significant problems. We should as well.
John Powell M.D.