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

It has been reported that an Australian naturopath would refuse entry to her business to anyone who has received a COVID-19 vaccine in the past two weeks. In her original Facebook post, Ms. Holland said that vaccinated people would have to wait a minimum of two weeks after vaccination before attending her clinic due to “the shedding of spike proteins” caused by “these experimental treatments”.

Christine Pope, who is on the Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS) board of directors, said she believed the views shared by the Warrnambool naturopath were part of the alternative medicine sector’s “fringe” and didn’t represent the industry. “We’re always very careful to tell our practitioners about posting appropriately and within their scope of practice,” Ms. Pope said. “These sort of comments to me look like they’re outside their scope of practice. We do a lot of training about making sure that you’re posting appropriately within your scope of practice and about things about which you are qualified in. As an association supporting natural medicine practitioners, it’s not really our job to promote or comment on the vaccination program – we’re not public health experts … and this is really outside my scope of practice. But from a public health perspective (vaccination) is the best option we’ve got.”

Sharon Holland, who runs a clinic in Warrnambool, cited on Facebook a number of discredited medical professionals who have become figureheads of the anti-vax and COVID conspiracy movements, including Judy Mikovits, Robert Malone, Peter McCullogh, and J Bart Classen. “Often de-bunked and fact-checked (by whom) can mean silenced,” Ms. Holland wrote. “We still have free speech available to some extent. This is a very emotive and divisive subject so my post was bound to ‘ruffle feathers’.”

The ATMS says its accredited practitioners need to “stay within their scope of practice” and avoid posting about vaccines they haven’t studied. Ms. Pope urged people to lodge a complaint about bogus health claims through the ATMS website or the healthcare complaint commissioner in the appropriate state.

___________________________

This course of events begs several questions. In my view, the most important are:

  1. Is Sharon Holland an exception, or are many/most naturopaths of her opinion?
  2. Instructing practitioners about “posting appropriately and within their scope of practice” sounds fine but might miss the point entirely. What really matters are the messages ATMS members orally convey to their patients. Is there any evidence on this issue?
  3. Surely, the anti-vax sentiments of naturopaths must originate from their education. Is there any evidence as to what they are taught about the subject?
  4. Is the ATMS going to take action against Ms. Holland and other members who endanger the public with their anti-vax stance?

24 Responses to A naturopath promoting fake news about COVID vaccinations

  • Despite common believe I guess her untreated patients will somehow survive…

  • Dear Professor Ernst,

    do you have any thoughts regarding the figures in the “Public Health England”
    reports for the aged >50 displaying higher mortality after receiving 2 doses of
    vaccine compared to the unvaccinated https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1009243/Technical_Briefing_20.pdf ?

    Thanks.

    • no, and I do not see this finding in the report; where exactly is is?

    • Subee,

      I have had a look at the table you are referring to on page 18 of the report, which states that between 1st February and 1st August 2021 there were 389 deaths in vaccinated individuals (two doses) over 50 years of age compared to 205 deaths in unvaccinated individuals.

      These are “total deaths in any setting” not rates, so they do not give any information regarding how much protection against mortality is conferred by the vaccine as we would need to know the total numbers of people vaccinated in these populations at the time they contracted Covid in order to calculate this.

      Certainly towards the end of the study period the vast majority of over 50-year-olds in the UK had been vaccinated. We know that vaccination is not completely protective against death, particularly in certain vlunerable individuals such as those immunocompromised by cancer treatment, and as these were among the first to be vaccinated we should expect them to skew the figures. It is also important to realise that if everybody were vaccinated, then ALL Covid deaths would be in vaccinated individuals as there wouldn’t be anybody else left.

      My interpretation of these figures, therefore, is that they reflect the very large proportion of over 50’s who have been vaccinated.

      This document is a technical briefing regarding variants of concern. It is not a report on the effectiveness of vaccination in preventing Covid deaths, which has been demonstrated quite conclusively in studies designed for that purpose.

      If there is any take-home message, it should be that in order to interpret any data you need to know how it was collected and what the numbers actually represent.

  • Sorry, my bad, it has actually slightly decreased since report 18, yet, interesting phenomenon.
    thank you.

    • again, I think the numbers might be too small to draw meaningful conclusions

      • …for pinning down, sure. It should spark some closer inspection. There seems to be no normed pooling of data, no cohort studies coming up which would allow for drawing meaningful conclusions anyway; pls correct me if i am wrong. Anyhow, thank you and have a nice day.

  • @Subee
    Also note that you are not the only one who notices these numbers – epidemiologists, scientists and of course the people who collated these figures in the first place must have seen them, and the fact that they are not alarmed in any way should be reassurance already that there is nothing wrong. And yes, there are also counterexamples, where experts did find serious side effects in certain vaccines, such as an increased (albeit still extremely small) risk of deep vein thrombosis. This latter is also good indication that you can trust the experts.

    • Not sure if nobody is alarmed. Even so that doesn’t imply that there is nothing wrong, science is not always rational, and has been often wrong, there’re also subtle social dynamics at play etc. Ioannidis time and again points to faulty and useless research findings for instance. Peer reviewed results can be faulty and not be double checked etc. Don’t get me wrong, science is great for what it is, but there is no great mass of reliable data, as it seems, on which basis these (new) vaccines can be properly assessed by experts.

      • Didn’t you quote from one of the many places where data on the COVID-19 vaccines is being gathered and assessed?

        • Thats right. And a sample on that scale isn’t bad by comparison, i think. The figures might point to something there, but in order to pin it down, and being able to evaluate each vaccine properly you need ideally large large cohort studies in which patients are monitored meticulously over long periods in order to catch potential later sideeffects as well. The point is that nothing like that seems to be on the way, so we are fumbling somewhat in the dark, yet, having fairly strong paternalism, social pressure and of course there is heaps of money involved as well, Ugur Sahin is promoting the third shot of his vaccine, his net value rocketed up from 6 to about 15 billion within a short period, there is nothing wrong with that, if we would have solid research results at the same time on which scientist could agree upon.

          • I think scientists have agreed upon the fact that the vaccine saves many lives. this seems to be a point that you omit. uncertainties are unavoidable with a new therapy.

          • @ Edzard
            Yes certainly, that goes without saying. If the rationale behind the decisions taken was always appropriate to the factual risk and free from other biases would be yet good to know in retrospect. Thanks.

          • Subee,

            and being able to evaluate each vaccine properly you need ideally large large cohort studies in which patients are monitored meticulously over long periods in order to catch potential later sideeffects as well
            I’m afraid you are wrong here, too.

            Cohort studies, however large, are limited with regard to the conclusions that can be drawn from them because they are non-randomised and subject to bias resulting from inevitable differences between the cohorts that are unrelated to the question being studied. They can only ever be hypothesis-generating and should not form the basis of clinical practice.

            What we actually need is long-term follow-up from randomised studies, which are currently ongoing.

          • @ Dr. Julian

            don’t be afraid. I think rather you might overlook to much important side effects for instance by excluding criteria when only doing rct’s; this is the whole population as it is, with all its complexities, therefore, additional cohort studies are certainly desirable to meet external validity.

          • Dear Dr. Julian Money Kyrle,
            yes agree partly. Nonetheless, RCTs alone are liekly to overlook important aspects e.g. regarding side effects due to excluding criteria at the expense of external validity, which is desireable when vaccinating global population with all its complexities. A synergetic approach seems more pomising.

      • @Subee

        science is not always rational …

        Sorry, but you are quite wrong here. Science is absolutely rational, all of the time – because rationality is one of science’s defining characteristics. Individual scientists can sometimes be irrational, which usually leads to criticism from other scientists, but science as a whole is never irrational (because then it would not be science any more).
        It is in fact antivaccine people, Covid denialists, pseudoscientists and alternative practitioners who are being irrational a lot of the time, e.g. by advising against vaccination, even though getting vaccinated is several orders of magnitude safer than contracting the actual disease.

        … and has been often wrong

        Again, no, not really. Science has not been wrong often, and to my knowledge, it certainly has never been wrong about vaccination.
        Please also note again that antivaccine people and Covid denialists have been (and are) quite wrong almost all of the time. The same goes for naturopaths and other alternative practitioners: whenever they make certain claims that contradict scientific consensus, they in fact always turn out to be wrong. Or could you provide an example from the past century or so where one of these dissenters was eventually vindicated?

        but there is no great mass of reliable data, as it seems, on which basis these (new) vaccines can be properly assessed by experts.

        And once again you have no idea how wrong you are. These new vaccines have generated vastly more data on safety and efficacy in the past year than most medicines have in their entire product lifetime. Not only have all vaccines been tested in just as many people (tens of thousands per vaccine) as any other vaccine or medicine, but by now, some 4.7 BILLION vaccine doses have been administered, and there are no sings AT ALL that these vaccines are more harmful than expected. All monitoring systems worldwide show the same results: the vaccines are highly effective, with serious adverse events being exceedingly rare.
        And no, this hugely positive benefit/harm balance is not the result of ignoring adverse effects or simply not looking for them – as evidenced by the fact that monitoring did uncover the aforementioned link with deep vein thrombosis with thrombocytopenia, even though we’re talking about chances in the order of one in a million or so.
        The only uncertainty is about long-term side effects, but there are no reasons to expect that these will emerge. The vaccines don’t contain any substances that alter the body’s chemistry or DNA; they merely present the immune system with a piece of the virus, something that happens on a daily basis anyway with other pathogens we come into contact with.

        Anyone who wants to argue that these vaccines are far more harmful will have to come up with very good evidence – and also a very good reason how all those different institutions and scientists worldwide could be so very wrong.

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