MD, PhD, FMedSci, FSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

My 2008 evaluation of chiropractic concluded that the concepts of chiropractic are not based on solid science and its therapeutic value has not been demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt. It also pointed out that the advice of chiropractors often is dangerous and not in the best interest of the patient: many chiropractors have a very disturbed attitude towards immunisation: anti-vaccination attitudes till abound within the chiropractic profession. Despite a growing body of evidence about the safety and efficacy of vaccination, many chiropractors do not believe in vaccination, will not recommend it to their patients, and place emphasis on risk rather than benefit.

In case you wonder where this odd behaviour comes from, you best look into the history of chiropractic. D. D. Palmer, the magnetic healer who ‘invented’ chiropractic about 120 years ago, left no doubt about his profound disgust for immunisation: “It is the very height of absurdity to strive to ‘protect’ any person from smallpox and other malady by inoculating them with a filthy animal poison… No one will ever pollute the blood of any member of my family unless he cares to walk over my dead body… ” (D. D. Palmer, 1910)

D. D. Palmer’s son, B. J. Palmer (after literally walking [actually it was driving] over his father’s body)  provided a much more detailed explanation for chiropractors’ rejection of immunisation: “Chiropractors have found in every disease that is supposed to be contagious, a cause in the spine. In the spinal column we will find a subluxation that corresponds to every type of disease… If we had one hundred cases of small-pox, I can prove to you, in one, you will find a subluxation and you will find the same condition in the other ninety-nine. I adjust one and return his function to normal… There is no contagious disease… There is no infection…The idea of poisoning healthy people with vaccine virus… is irrational. People make a great ado if exposed to a contagious disease, but they submit to being inoculated with rotten pus, which if it takes, is warranted to give them a disease” (B. J. Palmer, 1909)

Such sentiments and opinions are still prevalent in the chiropractic profession – but today they are expressed in a far less abrupt, more politically correct language: The International Chiropractors Association recognizes that the use of vaccines is not without risk. The ICA supports each individual’s right to select his or her own health care and to be made aware of the possible adverse effects of vaccines upon a human body. In accordance with such principles and based upon the individual’s right to freedom of choice, the ICA is opposed to compulsory programs which infringe upon such rights. The International Chiropractors Association is supportive of a conscience clause or waiver in compulsory vaccination laws, providing an elective course of action for all regarding immunization, thereby allowing patients freedom of choice in matters affecting their bodies and health.

Not all chiropractors share such opinions. The chiropractic profession is currently divided over the issue of immunisation. Some chiropractors now realise that immunisations have been one of the most successful interventions ever for public health. Many others, however, do still vehemently adhere to the gospel of the Palmers.  Statements like the following abound:

Vaccines. What are we taught? That vaccines came on the scene just in time to save civilization from the ravages of infectious diseases. That vaccines are scientifically formulated to confer immunity to certain diseases; that they are safe and effective. That if we stop vaccinating, epidemics will return…And then one day you’ll be shocked to discover that … your “medical” point of view is unscientific, according to many of the world’s top researchers and scientists. That many state and national legislatures all over the world are now passing laws to exclude compulsory vaccines….

Our original blood was good enough. What a thing to say about one of the most sublime substances in the universe. Our original professional philosophy was also good enough. What a thing to say about the most evolved healing concept since we crawled out of the ocean. Perhaps we can arrive at a position of profound gratitude if we could finally appreciate the identity, the oneness, the nobility of an uncontaminated unrestricted nervous system and an inviolate bloodstream. In such a place, is not the chiropractic position on vaccines self-evident, crystal clear, and as plain as the sun in the sky?

Yes, I do agree: the position of far too many chiropractors is ‘crystal clear’ – unfortunately it is also dangerously wrong.

19 Responses to Why so many chiropractors advise against immunisation

  • Professor Ernst
    Thank you for pointing out that not all chiropractors share this opinion. I note that one of the main chiropractic teaching establishments the AECC states that they endorse the infant vaccination program in the UK (http://www.aecc.ac.uk/clinic/whatischiro.aspx). The chiropractors that I have worked with in the UK have never had an anti-vax stance although I am aware that there may be a small number of chiropractors, particularly outside of Europe, who still do.

    • Andy wrote: “I note that one of the main chiropractic teaching establishments the AECC states that they endorse the infant vaccination program in the UK (http://www.aecc.ac.uk/clinic/whatischiro.aspx).”

      Whilst the AECC’s vaccination stance is commendable, it’s a matter for concern that the following, lifted from that link, doesn’t seem to agree with the outcome (with regard to evidence) of the British Chiropractic Association v. Simon Singh libel case:

      QUOTE
      “Our clinic and chiropractic in general have experienced an increasing number of referrals from midwives, health visitors and parents seeking care for their newborn children. We see a multifaceted role for chiropractors in healthcare that primarily affects the musculoskeletal system. We also provide a careful health assessment of babies and offer gentle treatment.”

      I’d like to know what evidence the college is using to support its “gentle treatment” of babies and children. Let’s not forget that the editor of the British Medical Journal, Fiona Godlee, speaking of a BMJ article by Professor Ernst in 2009 on the British Chiropractic Association’s “plethora of evidence” for the chiropractic treatment of childhood ailments, said:

      QUOTE

      “His demolition of the 18 references is, to my mind, complete”.

      Link: http://www.bmj.com/content/339/bmj.b2783.full

      As far as I know, there’s been no robust new data to counter Professor Ernst’s findings from five years ago – something which would suggest that chiropractors shouldn’t be treating children.

  • AHPRA clamped down on anti-vaccination chiro’s here. COCA has had a position statement in support for years as has the CAA. AHPRA is also taking disciplinary action as it is totally outside our scope of practice. Besides, if you are into health and PREVENTION then nothing in medicine encapsulates this more than Vaccination. The evidence in favour is overwhelming! Definite No Brainer! If patients ask me any questions on what I think on the subject I tell them that my whole family is up to date on our vaccination and I am a supporter but offering advice is outside my scope of practice so talk to your doctor!

  • Well, EE, you tell others to roll up their sleeves and their kids sleeves and take 60+ jabs, and you won’t even line up for a simple flu shot! So why should anyone else? What does that say? Are YOU up-to-date on your immunisations? The elderly are supposed get all immunised up, you know.

    Yes, I know, EE. You just don’t “get round to it”. Translation: It’s not that important.

    http://edzardernst.com/2014/06/how-prince-charles-disrespects-his-constitutional-role/#comment-60132

    • correct! a flu jab for a healthy person at my age is not as important as to immunise children against potentially life-threatening infections.

    • if I don’t take a flue jab, I might be endangering my own health at worst; if chiros advise against childhood immunisations they endanger public health.

      • EE wrote: “if I don’t take a flue jab, I might be endangering my own health at worst”

        No exercise, spreads the flu by not lining up and rolling up the sleeve for the betterment of society. I guess allopaths aren’t keen on these things either. Likely other medicos on this “blog” don’t keep up with their vaccinations either.

        • you are writing so much nonsense that I am beginning to fear that YOU ARE ON THE PAYROLL OF BIG PHARMA TO GIVE POOR CHIRO A BAD NAME!

          • Yes, that’s it, EE! Right as usual.

            Maybe these are some reasons that you and your allopathic friends aren’t keen to line up for your multiple jabs. It certainly has to do with parents reluctance to do the same:

            http://www.hrsa.gov/vaccinecompensation/vaccinetable.html

          • @SkeptdocProf,
            the only time my GP has seen me in the last decades was when I was there to fresh up my vaccinations (I’m up to date with all my recommended jabs). If my insurance pays it, I get it – most people I know are the same. It’s not that I wouldn’t take multiple jabs, it’s just that for most vaccines, once you’ve had your primary vaccination you’ll only need boosters every now and then.
            Why do you focus so much on the flu vaccination? It’s the one vaccination that hasn’t proven its benefits for the general population (and because of that isn’t recommended for everyone)?

            @Edzard Ernst:
            I’m pretty sure I know the answer is a resounding NO, but just to make sure SkepdocProf can sleep at night: are you an anti-vaccinationist/”vaccine critic”?

          • I am pro-immunisation – not because of some dogma or belief, but because the evidence is very clear.

  • Chiropractors like to tout their education, saying it is comparable to what medical students receive, yet, by the nonsense shown here, they seem to lack even a basic understanding of science and biology.

  • In reply to Rob:
    Education isn’t the issue, its lack of critical thinking amongst some chiropractors! We don’t all adhere to an outdated dogma and call it philosophy! Saw this recent definition of philosophy:
    “An ‘evidence-based’ methodology involves critical reflection on the methods of acquiring and interpreting evidence – that is, philosophy.”
    Says it All!

  • . You sir are an imbicile to put all alternative medicine in one basket — just as it would be equally bad to put all medicine in one basket or all doctors in one basket. I go to doctors that put the best in medicine and the best of alternative medicine together which makes them far superior to the typical MD.

    When you are in enough pain and medicine tells you there is nothing more they can do, maybe then you will consider what alternative medicine has to offer.

    • LOL!

      Perhaps you could give some specific details about this ‘best of alternative medicine’ and ‘what alternative medicine has to offer’ instead of trying to insult Prof Ernst?

  • Can’t speak for all but I graduated from the Macquarie University Chiropractic program relatively recently. We were taught to promote all public health programs. There was no doubt over whether vaccines should be advised or not.

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