MD, PhD, FMedSci, FSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

The fact that practitioners of alternative medicine frequently advise their patients against immunising their children has been documented repeatedly. In particular, doctors of anthroposophy, chiropractors and homeopaths are implicated in thus endangering public health. Less is known about naturopaths attitude in this respect. Now new data have emerged which confirm some of our worst fears.

This survey aimed at assessing the attitudes, education, and sources of knowledge surrounding childhood vaccinations of 560 students at National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, US. Students were asked about demographics, sources of information about childhood vaccines, differences between mainstream and CAM education on childhood vaccines, alternative vaccine schedules, adverse effects, perceived efficacy, and credibility of information sources.

A total of 109 students provided responses (19.4% response rate). All students surveyed learned about vaccinations in multiple courses and through independent study. The information sources employed had varying levels of credibility. Only 26% of the responding students planned on regularly prescribing or recommending vaccinations for their patients; 82% supported the general concept of vaccinations for prevention of infectious diseases.

The vast majority (96%) of those who might recommend vaccinations reported that they would only recommend a schedule that differed from the standard CDC-ACIP schedule.

Many respondents were concerned about vaccines being given too early (73%), too many vaccines administered simultaneously (70%), too many vaccines overall (59%), and about preservatives and adjuvants in vaccines (72%). About 40% believed that a healthy diet and lifestyle was more important for prevention of infectious diseases than vaccines. 90% admitted that they were more critical of vaccines than mainstream pediatricians, medical doctors, and medical students.

These results speak for themselves and leave me (almost) speechless. The response rate was truly dismal, and it is fair to assume that the non-responding students held even more offensive views on vaccination than their responding colleagues. The findings seem to indicate that naturopaths are systematically trained to become anti-vaxers who believe that their naturopathic treatments offer better protection than vaccines. They are thus depriving many of their patients of arguably the most successful means of disease prevention that exists today. To put it bluntly: naturopaths seem to be brain-washed into becoming a danger to public health.

10 Responses to Naturopaths: trained to endanger public health?

  • Irene says:

    Ah, Portland!

    I lived there for many years and a neighbor was a naturopath–”I’m a doctor, just a different kind of doctor” he used to say and I must say that I agree with his statement, although not in the same way that he intended.

    Portland also recently held a referendum to prevent fluoridation of the public water supply. Mind you that Vancouver, Washington–just across the river–has been fluoridated forever with none of the supposed outcomes (conspiracy theories) that the anti-fluoro crowd rant about.

    There are probably hundreds do “health food” stores in Portland. You might think that people shop there for actual food, but actually they go there for the “no GMO”, organic chips and cookies.

    On the bright side, they have awesome public transit in Portland–and a great planning scheme for growth in the city limits!

  • jm says:

    Of course, it’s equally fair to assume that the non-responding students were pro-vaccine. In which case, your post title would be more accurate as: “Naturopaths: Safeguarding the Public Health!”. And, it’s equally fair to assume that more Naturopaths support vaccines than MDs. As long as we’re assuming, the sky’s the limit!

    • Edzard says:

      dream on!
      there is plenty of evidence that in such low response surveys one gets a view distorted towards the ‘politically correct’ and acceptable view.

      • jm says:

        Dream on? I’m certain you’re assuming, based on “The response rate was truly dismal, and it is fair to assume that the non-responding students held even more offensive views on vaccination than their responding colleagues.”

        No dreaming necessary. Rather than distorting, toward politically correct or otherwise…why assume anything? The only real “fact” is that the response to the survey was low. Maybe your title should read “Crappy Survey Response Tells Us…Pretty Much Nothing”.

  • Tom Kennedy says:

    I don’t mean to be contrary, but what is the politically correct/acceptable view on vaccination? And can you link to the evidence you mention? I’m not suggesting it doesn’t exist, I’m just interested in seeing it.

  • Jann Bellamy says:

    This might prove useful to jm and Tom Kennedy:

    “We sampled all 4 years of students at the Canadian College of Naturopathic medicine . . . We found that only 12.8% of the respondents would advise full vaccination . . . ” Wilson K., et al, “A survey of attitudes toward
    paediatric vaccinations amongst Canadian naturopathic students” Vaccine. 2004

    “Some beliefs and approaches of naturopathic practitioners are not consistent with conventional medicine and their safety may not be supported by scientific evidence. For example, some practitioners may not recommend childhood vaccinations. The benefits of vaccination in preventing illness and death have been repeatedly proven and greatly outweigh the risks.” National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, U.S. National Institutes of Health

    “Children were significantly less likely to receive each of the four recommended vaccinations if they saw a naturopathic physician. . . . Children aged 1–17 years were significantly more likely to be diagnosed with a vaccine
    preventable disease if they received naturopathic care.” Downey L, et al, “Pediatric Vaccination and Vaccine-Preventable Disease Acquisition: Associations with Care by Complementary and Alternative Medicine Providers.” Maternal and Child Health Journal (2010)

    In addition, if one reviews the foundational text of naturopathy, The Textbook of Natural Medicine (2012), one notes that there is no suggestion that naturopaths recommend vaccination to their patients. In fact, the only mention of vaccinations at all is to mention some side effects.

    I suggest you also review Scott Gavura’s excellent post on naturopaths and vaccination on the Science-Based Medicine website, http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org. I would add a link here but unfortunately the website is down at the moment.

    • jm says:

      Thanks Jann, but I was talking solely about making an assumption. Not what the assumption was.

      Edzard wrote: “These results speak for themselves and leave me (almost) speechless. The response rate was truly dismal, and it is fair to assume that the non-responding students held even more offensive views on vaccination than their responding colleagues.”

      Really, the results don’t say anything other than surveys weren’t filled out. That’s it.

      If, based on zero data (from the surveys that were not filled out) it’s fair to assume a particular view on vaccination…it would be equally fair to assume they were all left handed. Or at home, barbecueing kittens. With no data, it’s equally fair to assume anything at all.

      If I’m reading Tom’s comment right, it seems he is looking for support for this comment: “there is plenty of evidence that in such low response surveys one gets a view distorted towards the ‘politically correct’ and acceptable view.” Not about naturopaths or vaccines…but about survey responses in general. Although I might be misreading that.

  • Jorma Kärtsy says:

    Dear Björn,

    You debate about misleading title of blog which refers to crappy survey showing only students were not interested of responding survey. Then you blow light onto subject referring skeptic blog.

    It cant be more evidence based here. I applaud for your hard science.

  • Larry Esser says:

    After dealing with a brother who is a chiropractor and homeopathic advocate and who fought to keep his children from getting vaccinated when they were young, it was one of his own statements that said it all: “I truly believe my children have a superior ability to fight off pathogens” because they were never vaccinated. When it was pointed out to him that he had no scientific or medical grounds on which to base such a breathtaking claim (along with quite a few others he made,) he became quite upset. But he never did come up with any evidence to back up what he was saying. Everything he had to offer was anecdotal. That is not science and it is not medicine. Dr. Ernst once made a remark about such people who use science as if it were a lamppost to lean on rather than a light to shine the way. That’s it in a nutshell.

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