MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

People who use so-called alternative medicines (SCAM) tend to be more vaccine hesitant. One possible conclusion that can be drawn from this is that trusting SCAM results in people becoming more vaccine hesitant. An alternative possibility is that vaccine hesitancy and use of SCAM are both consequences of a distrust in conventional treatments. an International team of researchers conducted analyses designed to disentangle these two possibilities.

They measured vaccine hesitancy and SCAM use in a representative sample of Spanish residents (N = 5200). They also quantified their trust in three CCAM interventions;     

  1. acupuncture,
  2. reiki,
  3. homeopathy                                                                  

and in two conventional medical interventions:

  1. chemotherapy,
  2. antidepressants.

Vaccine hesitancy turned out to be strongly associated with (dis)trust in conventional medicine, and this relationship was particularly strong among SCAM users. In contrast, trust in SCAM was a relatively weak predictor of vaccine hesitancy, and the relationship was equally weak regardless of whether or not participants themselves had a history of using SCAM.

According to the authors of this paper, the implication for practitioners and policy makers is that SCAM is not necessarily a major obstacle to people’s willingness to vaccinate, and that the more proximal obstacle is people’s mistrust of conventional treatments.

This is an interesting study. Yet, it begs a few questions:

  1.  Is it possible to reliably establish trust in SCAM by asking about just 3 specific therapies?
  2. Is it possible to reliably establish trust in conventional medicine by asking about just 2 treatments?
  3. Why those therapies out of hundreds of options?
  4. Could it be that here are national differences (in other countries distrust in conventional medicine is not a strong determinant of SCAM use)?
  5. Is trust in SCAM and distrust in conventional medicine perhaps the common expression of an anti-science attitude or cultist tendencies?

31 Responses to Vaccine hesitancy and so-called alternative medicine (SCAM)

  • Maybe the vaccine-lovers are just more naive to believe that [All] vaccines are safe and effective [for Everyone, All the time], after even the W.H.O. scientists admit that they don’t know much about the adjuvants in the vaccines alone or in combination, numerous admissions of hitch-hiking viruses in the vaccines (SV-40, etc.), no true placebo testing of the vaccines, admission by the CDC in a lawsuit that they havent studied the relationship of all the early childhood vaccines and autism and other chronic diseases, etc, etc. Give us some science we can trust.

    • “Vaccine-lovers,” Roger? Really? That term has a disdainful tone about it and quite wrongly so. Personally, I am a “vaccine-lover.” I love that diphtheria is vanquished in modern nations. That polio and smallpox are rare, that children are spared pertussis and measles. I love that my likelihood of shingles is now but a few percent and I have not suffered the flu for 20 years.

      I think, Roger, that you worry about the wrong things in terms of life risks.

      • @Ray Haupt

        When the Covid-19 vaccine becomes available, the sheeple will be fighting for a place in the front of the line.

        • How condescending. Yes, if the epidemic is still active when an effective vaccine is developed, the “sheeple” as you so unkindly call them will likely line up to take advantage of the new technology. What is irrational about that, how is that akin to mindlessly following the herd?

          Would you use that vaccine, RG, or is a nosode more to your liking?

          • @Ray Haupt

            lol….. Ray, you don’t know condescending till you’ve been on the receiving side of the professor…. lol
            he’s the champ.

            Will I use the covid-19 vaccine ? I doubt it, not without being compelled to do so. However, if I am forced to to accept the vaccine to travel (which I suspect will happen) …. I will likely accept the vaccine….. reluctantly. I’m 65 years of age, with no major underlying health issues. The rates of survival are just too good in my view. Even if the survival rate is 96% at my age and health, I’ll accept those odds.

          • ” no major underlying health issues”
            that is, if one discounts your paranoia about conventional medicine!

          • Will I use the covid-19 vaccine ? I doubt it, not without being compelled to do so.

            Even if the survival rate is 96% at my age and health, I’ll accept those odds.

            I have multiple myeloma, which puts me in a very high risk group if I get coronavirus (worse than leukaemia) and my haematologist has advised me that I need to remain shielded (i.e. not to leave the house or have visitors) for another year. I am therefore reliant on a the development of a vaccine (or a really effective contact-tracing and quarantine system with a high level of compliance), for my own protection for when I eventually go out into the community again. However, I am agammaglobulinaemic (i.e. I am not making any antibodies), so vaccines don’t provide me with any level of immunity; I am even susceptible to diseases I have already had, such as measles.

            In other words, I am relying on people like you getting vaccinated in order to protect people like me. It’s nice to hear how public-spirited you are.

          • @EE

            Any paranoia I have is BECAUSE of my experience with conventional medicine. I guess in your thinking I’m supposed to ignore my own experience …. and just blindly accept “SCIENCE” … in spite of the failures …. hmmm.

            I gave conventional medicine a chance to prove itself.

          • I rather think that any paranoia you have is BECAUSE of your lack of insight – some might call it stupidity.

          • @EE

            Ahhhh…yes.
            I am ” stupid” because over-promise, under-deliver medicine failed me.

            I’m so glad I have you to explain it to stupid me.

          • @Dr. JMK

            Say doc.
            I’m sympathetic to your situation. You know my mother died from the same cancer.

            That said, we can easily prevent a child to ever die from drowning in a swimming pool EVER again. Its easy ! …we fill-in all the swimming pools with dirt.

            We can also prevent 99% of future deaths from auto accidents if we all drive no more than 5 mph.

            You see how we can make radical changes to the masses of society to prevent death and illness of a few.

            We can have great success ….IF…we expect others to change their lifestyles to accommodate everyone else.

            But we don’t.

          • I guess in your thinking I’m supposed to ignore my own experience …. and just blindly accept “SCIENCE” … in spite of the failures …. hmmm.

            Maybe you post from a computer that you designed from scratch, using Internet protocols that you worked out by trial and error, but I think you will find that you are relying on other people and on science far more than you realise.

            If, when I was working as a doctor, I limited my practice to my own experience and ignored data and evidence then I would be letting my patients down, and hopefully the system would recognised a problem and remove me from anywhere I could do damage.

            Any individual’s experience is by necessity limited, and when dealing with something uncommon it is likely to be quite a misleading guide to the wisest course of action.

          • RG,

            That said, we can easily prevent a child to ever die from drowning in a swimming pool EVER again. Its easy ! …we fill-in all the swimming pools with dirt.

            A reliable measure of how advanced a society is is the number of children who drown close to their home. Fencing off bodies of water, signage and supervision are all effective measures. If you choose to have a swimming pool in your home, or to allow a child near a public or hotel swimming pool, then it becomes your responsibility to ensure that the child is kept safe.

            I suspect if there were no swimming pools children would swim in rivers and ponds instead, and quite possibly more of them would drown.

            We can also prevent 99% of future deaths from auto accidents if we all drive no more than 5 mph

            We could prevent a lot of deaths from road traffic accidents by enforcing existing legislation more strictly and by increased use of public transport. Other measures which have been very effective are the compulsory wearing of seat belts, and mandatory safety features in many aspects of vehicle design. Self-driving cares also have the potential to reduce accidents substantially, though not completely as AI isn’t as intelligent as most people think and will inevitably encounter situations that it wasn’t trained on.

            You could also prevent a lot of accidental deaths (and homicides / suicides) by making it illegal for private citizens to possess handguns and assault rifles (though road traffic accidents and drowing account for a higher number)

            The point is that there is an unwritten social contract which grants you rights in exchange for responsibilities. You seem to want one without the other. This seems to be a not uncommon attitude in the USA which the rest of the world finds both difficult to understand and repugnant. If you want to see the opposite in action you should visit Japan, where the sense of civic pride is high, and indeed the crime rate is remarkably low.

          • over-promise, under-deliver medicine failed me

            Unrealistic expectations always lead to disappointment. Though allowing pharmaceutical companies and private healthcare providers to advertise directly to the public doesn’t help here.

          • @Dr JMK

            I’ve been to Japan … doc
            It has it’s pros and cons

          • RG,

            I’ve been to Japan … doc
            It has it’s pros and cons

            I would agree with that. But I’d like to go again and see some more of the country (and bruch up my Japanese – a fascinating language). I don’t suppose I will get the chance, though.

          • @Dr. JMK

            doc said;
            “Unrealistic expectations always lead to disappointment”

            Say doc. Yes, when patients go to an MD for a problem, they expect the doc will have a solution. If you’re saying that is unrealistic, then you are admitting that SBM doesn’t have the answers….. THANK YOU SOOOO MUCH !
            huh… but it’s science !! …. it has to perform … right ?

            If MD’s would advise the patient that they may not be able to cure the problem … before they pay the MD …. I suspect that MD’s might go broke (and they know that). On the contrary, MD’s usually give the patient false certainty).
            MD’s are hoping the remedy works, or at least the problem resolves itself in time…. (gimme some of that placebo effect).

          • RG,

            Say doc. Yes, when patients go to an MD for a problem, they expect the doc will have a solution. If you’re saying that is unrealistic, then you are admitting that SBM doesn’t have the answers…..

            Yes that is unrealistic, and medicine very often doesn’t have the answers. That isn’t a secret, and we don’t pretend that we do.

            huh… but it’s science !! …. it has to perform … right ?

            Science is a method for finding out the truth. It doesn’t have to perform.

            If MD’s would advise the patient that they may not be able to cure the problem … before they pay the MD …. I suspect that MD’s might go broke (and they know that). On the contrary, MD’s usually give the patient false certainty).Say doc. Yes, when patients go to an MD for a problem, they expect the doc will have a solution.

            I keep forgetting that you live somewhere where the healthcare system is broken. Though in my experience people often don’t seem to listen very carefully when their doctor tells them clearly what they can and can’t achieve. Most people with advanced and incurable cancer nevertheless believe that they are going to do much better than everybody else, despite all the information they are given, and I suppose it is a comping mechanism. Though people believe in doctors much less now than they did a couple of hundred years ago when usually their treatments were worse than doing nothing.

          • @ Dr. JMK

            Sure doc, the system is broken here.

            Does that mean that SBM somehow becomes more effective in other countries ? … I doubt that.

          • @ Dr. JMK

            I’ll give you this… the Japanese people are delightful.

    • You’ll be happy if we refer to you as a disease-lover then, Roger?

    • polio and smallpox are rare

      Smallpox was completely eliminated decades ago.

      Maybe the vaccine-lovers are just more naive to believe that [All] vaccines are safe and effective [for Everyone, All the time]

      Vaccines don’t have to be safe and effective for everyone all the time; in order to be effective they only have to be safer than the disease that they are protecting against, though in practice they are a great deal safer than that. The problem is that they work so well that most people in the West have never seen diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, or even what were normal childhood diseases to me such as measles. If you speak to people who lived in a time (or a country) where they were common enough that everyone had a relative or knew a neighbour’s child who had died from one of them, you will find that they are very happy to accept imperfect vaccines.

      admission by the CDC in a lawsuit that they havent studied the relationship of all the early childhood vaccines and autism and other chronic diseases, etc, etc.

      Following Andrew Wakefield’s fraudulent research paper purporting to find a link between the MMR vaccine and autism this has been thoroughly researched and it is clear that there is no causal link at all. Wakefield, by the way, retracted the paper, and he has also been struck off the Medical Register in the UK (though this was for experimenting on children without obtaining consent, and not for fraud).

      Lawsuits are decided on the balance of probabilities, and the outcome is that one party should pay a sum of money to the other. This is a much less reliable system for finding the truth than is the scientific method.

  • Interesting that some accuse CAM of this as well…

    “the belief that vested interests in the medical community (e.g., Big Pharma) have participated in an orchestrated campaign to exaggerate the benefits of medical interventions and to minimize their dangers”

    • There is no doubt, DC, that the medical community and pharmaceutical companies overstate their abilities from time to time, perhaps even quite often. On the other hand it is demonstrably true that huge advances in cure and prevention of most diseases have occurred from their efforts. Proof of that is as simple as greater life spans today when compared to the 18th century. Tuberculosis for example is very rare in modern countries, Cancer is not always fatal.

      So, perhaps it is not so good that vested interests in the medical establishment overstate their abilities at times, but is it not laughable that CAM proponents, also heavily vested, make claims of cure and prevention without similar records of achievement? I can not identify a single communicable disease or malady of any kind that has been eradicated or cured consistently by CAM practitioners and methods. If that is wrong, please enlighten.

  • Join@non-Doctor C,
    How is a survey of non-medically qualified patients anything other than questioning the ignorant about their ignorance? What does it purport to demonstrate otherwise?

    It is no surprise you find it as a form of Tu Quoque. Are you proud of constantly displaying your profound stupidity?

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