MD, PhD, FMedSci, FSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

Vaccinations are unquestionably amongst the biggest achievements in the history of medicine. They have prevented billions of diseases and saved millions of lives. Despite all this, there has been an irritatingly vocal movement protesting against immunizations and thus jeopardising the progress made. Kata summarized the notions and tactics of these activists and identified the following ‘common anti-vaccination tropes‘ from searching relevant sites on the internet:

1 I am not anti-vaccine, I am pro-safe vaccine.

2 Vaccines are toxic.

3 Vaccines should be 100% safe.

4 You cannot prove that vaccines are safe.

5 Vaccines did not save us.

6 Vaccines are not natural.

7 I am an expert in my own child.

8 Galileo was persecuted too.

9 Science has been wrong before.

10 So many people simply cannot be wrong.

11 You must be in the pocket of BIG PHARMA.

12 I do not believe that the problems after vaccination occur coincidentally.

And what has this to do with alternative medicine, you may well ask?

In my experience, many of the arguments resonate with those of alternative medicine enthusiasts. Moreover, there is a mountain of evidence to show that many practitioners of alternative medicine are an established and important part of the anti-vax movement; in particular, homeopaths, chiropractors, naturopaths and practitioners of anthroposophic medicine are implicated.

The literature on this topic is vast, so I am spoilt for choice in providing an example. The one that I have selected is by Kate Birch, a mother who apparently found homeopathy so effective for her children that she decided to become a homeopath. Her book “Vaccine Free. Prevention & treatment of infectious contagious disease with homeopathy” provides details about the “homeopathic prevention and treatment” of the following diseases:

Rabies

Tetanus

Polio

Diphtheria

Whooping cough

Mumps

Scarlet fever

Streptococcus A

Roseola

Rocky Mountain spotted fever

Measles

German measles

Chickenpox

Smallpox

Anthrax

Plague

Haemophilus influencae

Otitis media

Influenza

Mononucleosis

Pneumonia

Tuberculosis

Conjunctivitis

Herpes simplex type 1 and 2

Genital warts

Gonorrhoea

Syphilis

AIDS/HIV

Hepatitis A, B, and C

Yellow fewer

Dengue fever

Malaria

Typhoid

Typhus

Cholera

While copying this list from her book, I became so angry that I was about to write something that I might later regret. It is therefore better to end this post abruptly. I leave it to my readers to comment.

26 Responses to Pro ‘alt med’ and anti-vax

  • Ian Lynch says:

    There is perhaps some excuse for ignorant uneducated people to believe that homeopathy could make some difference in that list. It is totally inexcusable for anyone who considers themselves educated in even the most basic science to do so. It also confirms why no person can be considered educated if totally scientifically incapable. It is morally and socially bankrupt to give any support or credence to money making scams that exploit ignorant, desperate or vulnerable people.

  • Nanea says:

    Has anyone brought her to the attention of the Nobel committee for their medicine award yet?

    Not?

    Oh, I guess it’s because she doesn’t seem to promise to cure cancer…

    @ EE: … or is that where you stopped writing

  • Pete says:

    All I can say is I am amazed she had to treat her children for such a long list of diseases.

    I constantly run up against ignorant people who think they have “intelligently researched” homoeopathy or vaccines when they really mean they have read a few blogs by “experts” such as Kate Birch but lack the intelligence to see it’s all bull.

  • Michael P. says:

    I can appreciate your need to cut short this article. Every time I try to bring some rationality to such discussions, I rapidly lose patience with the believer’s unsupported assertions.

    I’m so glad there are people like you exposing these ridiculous beliefs and dangerous practices.

  • Norbert Aust says:

    I do not understand this fuss: I did not fall ill with any of the maladies of Edzard’s list as yet (except measles in my early childhood). When I take ‘homeopathic prevention’ I will more not fall ill with these (or ‘less not’ or ‘notter’? I am not a native speaker of English…). This is absolute proof that homeopathic prevention is actually working effectively.

  • DavidCT says:

    I did not have to get past the first disease, Rabies, to be a little upset. Failure to take immediate and aggressive real treatment results in certain and unpleasant death. If it were not for the animal cruelty, I would suggest loosing a pack of mad dogs at the next homeopathic meeting. The most infuriating aspect of this homeopathic advice, is that the practitioners seem to never be held accountable for the suffering they cause.

    • Edzard says:

      I konow, rabies is terrible and to even contemplate to treat or prevent it with homeopathy is homeopathic madness at its very worst.

  • Mike Warren says:

    The link in Jesgol’s post takes you to a 35 page document containing luridly coloured graphs which purport to ‘prove’ that vaccination has had no impact on the incidence of a a whole host of diseases. Anyone with even a passing acquaintance with simple statistics will recognise them for the cherry-picked nonsense they are. A more comprehensive debunking can be found here:

    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/vaccines-didnt-save-us-intellectual-dishonesty-at-its-most-naked/

  • Jesgol says:

    Thank you Mike Warren for the link to that article. It has been an interesting read and given insight into my original post. It is clear that the study is of inferior quality and unable to conclude that vaccinations don’t influence the rate of disease incidence. I think that even without the graphs, the idea that vaccinations don’t influence disease incidence is largely naive. Why wouldn’t they work? Why wouldn’t a child’s immune system develop antibodies to exposed pathogens? This is the basis of immunology after all, and well described. Even now as I lie in bed recovering from a particularly nasty chest infection, I rest assured that my body is busily producing a fantastic cell mediated immune response that will see me well in a few days. Or I will be overcome with infection and die – but I like my odds as i live a health convergent lifestyle.

    In my quest for answers on this topic of vaccine use (I’m expecting a son in April), trailing blogs and articles; books and reviews; studies and journals, I come to realise it’s impossible to answer the question: are vaccines safe. Who to believe? Science is my usual answer to this question, but in this particular industry the stakes are high. Mass profit and contracts legally obligating corporations to share holder profits somewhat tarnish the plausibility of those industries – nobody can deny that. So I have decided to base my decisions on observation and logic.

    Humans are exposed to pathogens constantly. Our body develops immunity by producing antibodies – innate immune response. Assuming the person has an effective immune system and no co-morbidities interfere with this process. Exposing a healthy human to a pathogen through vaccination is a normal event.
    However, vaccinations require preservatives that contain heavy metals (I’m alluding to mercury in particular) and aldehydes.
    Mercury is the third most toxic substance known to man. To all intense and purposes the permissible exposure limit of mercury is zero.
    Mercury and aldehydes are neurotoxins. Mercury is a significant neurotoxin. It may or may not predispose children to autism. I’m not certain, and no one else is either. However if I was presented with evidence of a child with autism that did not receive a vaccination and had no exposure to elemental mercury (in utero) I would accept that vaccines play no part in autism predisposition.

    Until then I am in favour of vaccines that don’t contain toxic substances (that’s fairly obvious) and of ensuring the child is properly nourished and maintains high quality lifestyle choices.

  • WolfgangM says:

    @jesgol,

    paediatric vaccines are mercury free since more than 10 yrs. one exception were some brands of pandemic influenza vaccines

    And formaldehyde is a necessary molecule of our metabolism. An adult produces about 50 gramm /day.

    but if you dont wan`t vaccines you can try this homeopathic preparation:

    The bioterrorism prophylaxis kit for 39 US$ -prepaid

    The kit contains the following: Anthrax; Ebola; smallpox, dengue fever; bubonic plague; meningitis; cholera; diphtheria; poison gas; staphylococcus. If you are unfamiliar with homeopathy, the remedy will not have ANY toxins or poison, but is able to eliminate the symptoms of those diseases. Homeopathics have proven safe and effective for centuries.

    http://www.karinya.com/dancu2.htm

    but use it by yourself. And immunise your baby- to withhold recommended immunisation is child neglect according to pediatric textbooks (such as T Lissauer Paediatrics 2nd ed p79)

  • Mihoge says:

    Well, as long as enough other persons around you are vaccinated, you are protected against that agent (as long as it only transmitted from human to human).
    So for the individual, it might be of benefit to refuse getting vaccinated, when the risc of getting infected is minimised by others, who take the small risks of adverse effects linked to vaccination.
    Sure, it is arrogant to lower own risks on costs of others who protect you.
    But exactly this is the position in Germany:
    “My child does not need a measles vaccination. Hardly any measles infections in Germany anyway.”
    The absurdity of this point of view: Those people think to act according to good ethics and stress their opinion whenever possible.

    I think, as long as there is a risk of infection and the risks of vaccination are low, vaccination is a civic duty.
    Maximising the own benefit to risk ratio must not be critical in all cases:
    If a granny drops her purse in front of me on the pavement, not noticing it, it is the ethical decision to bring it to her instead of keeping it for myself. For this situation, there is law. For vaccination there isn’t.

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