As discussed regularly on this blog, there is plenty of evidence to show that many chiropractors, homeopaths, and naturopaths discourage their patients from getting vaccinated. Now, a further investigation from the US seems to confirm these findings.
The data from the 2017 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS; n = 26,742; response rate 80.7%) was used for this purpose. Prevalences of flu vaccination, consultations with SCAM practitioners in the past 12 months, and their potential interactions were examined.
A total of 42.7% of participants had received the flu vaccination in the past 12 months, 32.4% had seen one or more SCAM practitioners. Users of any type of SCAM were as likely as non-users to have received a flu vaccination (44.8% users versus 41.7% non-users; p = 0,862; adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 1.01, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.95-1.07).
Regarding specific SCAMs, individuals consulting with
- naturopaths (p < 0.001; AOR = 0.67, 95 %CI = 0.54-0.82),
- homeopaths (p < 0.001; AOR = 0.55; 95 %CI = 0.44-0.69),
- chiropractors (p = 0.016; AOR = 0.9, 95 %CI = 0.83-0.98)
were less likely, while other SCAM approaches showed no significant association with flu vaccination behavior. Independent predictors for a flu shot were prior diabetes, cancer, current asthma, kidney disease, overweight and current pregnancy. As well, higher educational level, age, ethnicity, health insurance coverage, and having seen a general physician or medical specialist in the past 12 months were also associated with a higher vaccination rate.
The authors concluded that SCAM users were equally likely to receive an influenza vaccination compared with non-users. Different complementary therapies showed varied associations with vaccination behavior. Further analyses may be needed to distinguish influencing factors among patients’ vaccination behavior.
This investigation confirms the prevalent anti-vax stance within chiropractic, homeopathy, and naturopathy. The effect is strongest by far with homeopaths. Nothing new! We knew this for a very long time. The question is WHAT ARE WE DOING ABOUT IT? Or more specifically, are the professional organizations of these SCAM professions finally going to take any actions against even the most rabid anti-vaxxers in their midst?
And the answer?
You guessed it: NO!
And the irony of all this must not get lost here: chiropractors, homeopaths, naturopaths, and their respective organizations all pride themselves regularly that they attribute particular importance to disease prevention.
The ‘International Chiropractors Association’ (ICA) has just issued a statement entitled “International Chiropractors Association Affirms Policy on Health Freedom“. On the background of the fact that US President Biden, issued a series of Executive Orders related to mandating federal employees and federal contractors to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, the ICA try to explain their position regarding vaccinations. Here are a few passages from this statement:
…In a world of public health that promotes evidence-based decision making, we see the importance of natural immunity being ignored and replaced with a totalitarian approach of compulsory vaccination. At a time when the Surgeon General says misinformation has become an urgent threat to public health, misinformation is now being used in an attempt to discredit the chiropractic profession, the International Chiropractors Association, and all chiropractic patients who desire to focus on improving health naturally. After enduring 18 months of shutdowns, lockdowns, flattening the curve, masking, limitations of speech on social media; and a cancel culture environment that threatens the basic freedoms our country was founded upon in 1776, ICA will not compromise on the importance of protecting health freedom…
The ICA Policy on Immunization and Vaccination has remained unchanged for almost 50 years and clearly states:
“The International Chiropractors Association recognizes that the use of vaccines is not without risk and questions the wisdom of mass vaccination programs. Chiropractic principles favor the enhancement of natural immunity over artificial immunization.
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.”
The International Chiropractors Association maintains that all healthcare interventions, including the chiropractic adjustment, are associated with some level of risk and that every individual is entitled to be informed of those risks, no matter how insignificant. All individuals must retain the freedom to accept or reject any healthcare product, procedure, or medication including vaccinations. The International Chiropractors Association therefore strongly opposes the use of medical mandates that violate personal sovereignty, violate the principles of informed consent, and constrain the rights of patients to make their own health care choices…
The ICA encourages the recognition that natural efforts to enhance the innate immune system ability to adapt to novel viruses are grounded in science and rejects the notion that the patients’ freedom to rely on naturally acquired immunity is not based upon unscientific beliefs.
The ICA rejects the premise that the chiropractic profession’s long history of promoting health freedom and supporting conscientious exemptions is based upon unscientific or non-mainstream beliefs…
I find this statement clear as mud and have the following questions:
- Do the ICA recommend vaccinations?
- In particular, do they encourage their members to get vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccines?
- Do they advise to recommend COVID-19 vaccinations to their patients?
- Or do they think that natural immunity is preferable and advise their members and patients accordingly?
- Do they believe that spinal manipulation enhances natural immunity?
- Do they think that spinal manipulations are an effective alternative to COVID-19 vaccinations?
- Do they believe that scientific evidence trumps dogma or vice versa?
- Which of the two should, according to their conviction, must influence the decision-making processes in healthcare?
- If the ICA object to misinformation about COVID, why do they not stop their members from promoting it?
- What makes them think that information about the possible adverse effects of vaccines upon a human body is unavailable?
- If the ICA recognizes the risks of spinal manipulation, why do they not inform the public about them regularly and objectively?
- If the ICA knows about the importance of informed consent, why do not all of their members adhere to it?
- And finally, why do the ICA insist on the term ‘international’ in the name of their organization, if they purely deal with the US situation?
I do not expect the ICA to give me the answers to these questions. But perhaps their Wiki page goes some way towards answering some of them: “… The ICA supports the efforts of the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC). The NVIC is known for promoting false and misleading information about vaccines, in particular the discredited claim that vaccines cause autism.
The ICA’s annual conferences have featured anti-vaccination propaganda. In 2018 Guest Speaker Beau Pierce (Pierce co-produced a series entitled Vaccines Revealed) hosted a session entitled Vaccines Revealed., and Jeff Hays, known for producing the anti-Vaccine propaganda Vaccines Revealed, was invited to host a session the 2017 ICA Council on Chiropractic Pediatrics Annual Conference. In 2016 the widely discredited anti-vaccination propaganda film VAXXED was shown at a conference sponsored by the ICA’s Council on Chiropractic Pediatrics …”
SAY NO MORE!
Germany seems to have a significant problem with anti-vaxxers. Today, only 68% of the population has had a COVID vaccination. In the UK and France, these figures are 72% and 75% respectively.
This study investigated the willingness to vaccinate of parents of minors and people without children who are minors. The investigation was based on a random sample of Germans (telephone survey, n = 2,014, collected between 12 November and 10 December 2020). The evaluation is primarily based on the sub-sample of people with minors in the household (n = 461).
Parents of minors consistently show a lower willingness to be vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine than respondents without minors (54.1% vs 71.1%). Fathers show a stronger willingness to be vaccinated than mothers. Furthermore, men are more willing to get their own child vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine than are women.
The authors concluded that among parents and especially mothers, a considerable misrepresentation of vaccination risks and frequent beliefs in vaccination conspiracy theories can be observed. Clear and easily understandable information on the effects and side effects of vaccination with a COVID-19 vaccine by relevant institutions and physicians is recommended.
And what has this to do with so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) and homeopathy?
In the results section of the paper, the authors report interesting additional findings (my translation):
In the total sample, a significantly higher willingness to vaccinate is associated with the rejection of “alternative healing methods”. There is also a significant correlation between the attitude towards homeopathy and one’s own willingness to vaccinate: if homeopathy is supported, the willingness to vaccinate is lower. This correlation between the attitude towards homeopathy and willingness to vaccinate is also evident in the sub-sample of parents. Among parents, it is again women who significantly more often have a positive attitude towards homeopathy than men, who more often do not think anything of it.
The authors also report that the parents were asked: “If a vaccine against the coronavirus is approved in Germany, would you get vaccinated?” CERTAINLY NOT was the answer of:
- 41% of homeopathy fans
- 10% of people who thought nothing at all about homeopathy
- 15% of participants who were not fully convinced by homeopathy
Yes, Germany seems to have a problem with the anti-vaccination brigade but it seems that at the heart of it is a problem with a homeopathy cult.
This article from AP News caught my attention. Here it is (I haven’t changed a word):
The flashy postcard, covered with images of syringes, beckoned people to attend Vax-Con ’21 to learn “the uncensored truth” about COVID-19 vaccines.
Participants traveled from around the country to a Wisconsin Dells resort for a sold-out convention that was, in fact, a sea of misinformation and conspiracy theories about vaccines and the pandemic. The featured speaker was the anti-vaccine activist who appeared in the 2020 movie “Plandemic,” which pushed false COVID-19 stories into the mainstream. One session after another discussed bogus claims about the health dangers of mask wearing and vaccines.
The convention was organized by members of a profession that has become a major purveyor of vaccine misinformation during the pandemic: chiropractors.
At a time when the surgeon general says misinformation has become an urgent threat to public health, an investigation by The Associated Press found a vocal and influential group of chiropractors has been capitalizing on the pandemic by sowing fear and mistrust of vaccines.
They have touted their supplements as alternatives to vaccines, written doctor’s notes to allow patients to get out of mask and immunization mandates, donated large sums of money to anti-vaccine organizations and sold anti-vaccine ads on Facebook and Instagram, the AP discovered. One chiropractor gave thousands of dollars to a Super PAC that hosted an anti-vaccine, pro-Donald Trump rally near the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
They have also been the leading force behind anti-vaccine events like the one in Wisconsin, where hundreds of chiropractors from across the U.S. shelled out $299 or more to attend. The AP found chiropractors were allowed to earn continuing education credits to maintain their licenses in at least 10 states.
On this blog, I have often discussed that chiropractors tend to be anti-vax. It all goes back to their founding father, DD Palmer, who famously wrote:
- Vaccination and inoculation are pathological; chiropractic is physiological,
- and who in 1894, published his views on smallpox vaccination: ‘…the monstrous delusion … fastened on us by the medical profession, enforced by the state boards, and supported by the mass of unthinking people …’
- and who stated in 1896 that keeping tissue healthy is therefore the best prevention against infections; and this is best achieved by magnetic healing.
But that’s long ago! We are not like that anymore! … say the chiros of today.
Do you believe them?
If so, you might want to read this article by Jann Bellamy. Or alternatively, just look at some of my finds from the Internet:
Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa, Korth.) is an evergreen tree that is indigenous to Southeast Asia. It is increasingly being used as a recreational drug, to help with opium withdrawal, and as a so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) for pain, erectile dysfunction, as a mood stabilizer, and for boosting energy or concentration. When ingested, Kratom leaves produce stimulant and opioid-like effects (see also my previous post).
Kratom contains 7‑hydroxymitragynine, which is active on opioid receptors. The use of kratom carries significant risks, e.g. because there is no standardized form of administration as well as the possibility of direct damage to health and of addiction.
There are only very few clinical trials of Kratom. One small placebo-controlled study concluded that the short-term administration of the herb led to a substantial and statistically significant increase in pain tolerance. And a recent review stated that Kratom may have drug interactions as both a cytochrome P-450 system substrate and inhibitor. Kratom does not appear in normal drug screens and, especially when ingested with other substances of abuse, may not be recognized as an agent of harm. There are numerous cases of death in kratom users, but many involved polypharmaceutical ingestions. There are assessments where people have been unable to stop using kratom therapy and withdrawal signs/symptoms occurred in patients or their newborn babies after kratom cessation. Both banning and failure to ban kratom places people at risk; a middle-ground alternative, placing it behind the pharmacy counter, might be useful.
In Thailand, Kratom had been outlawed since 1943 but now it has become (semi-)legal. Earlier this year, the Thai government removed the herb from the list of Category V narcotics. Following this move, some 12,000 inmates who had been convicted when Kratom was still an illegal drug received amnesty. However, Kratom producers, traders, and even researchers will still require licenses to handle the plant. Similarly, patients looking for kratom-based supplements will need a valid prescription from licensed medical practitioners. Thai law still prohibits bulk possession of Kratom. Users are encouraged to handle only minimum amounts of the herb to avoid getting prosecuted for illegal possession.
In 2018, the US Food and Drug Administration stated that Kratom possesses the properties of an opioid, thus escalating the government’s effort to slow usage of this alternative pain reliever. The FDA also wrote that the number of deaths associated with Kratom use has increased to a total of 44, up from a total of 36 since the FDA’s November 2017 report. In the majority of deaths that the FDA attributes to Kratom, subjects ingested multiple substances with known risks, including alcohol.
In most European countries, Kratom continues to be a controlled drug. In the UK the sale, import, and export of Kratom are prohibited. Yet, judging from a quick look, it does not seem to be all that difficult to obtain Kratom via the Internet.
Exploring preventive therapeutic measures has been among the biggest challenges during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). A team of Indian and US researchers explored the feasibility and methods of recruitment, retention, and potential signal of efficacy, of selected homeopathic medicines as a preventive measure for developing COVID-19 in a multi-group study.
A six-group, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled prophylaxis study was conducted in a COVID-19 exposed population in a quarantine facility in Mumbai, India. Each group received one of the following:
- Arsenicum album 30c,
- Bryonia alba 30c,
- Arsenicum album 30c, Bryonia alba 30c, Gelsemium sempervirens 30c, and Influenzinum 30c
- coronavirus nosode CVN01 30c,
- Camphora 1M,
Six pills twice a day were administered for 3 days. The primary outcome measure used was testing recruitment and retention in this quarantined setting. Secondary outcomes were numbers testing positive for COVID-19 after developing symptoms of illness, the number of subjects hospitalized, and days to recovery.
Good rates of recruitment and retention were achieved. Of 4,497 quarantined individuals, 2,343 sought enrollment, with 2,294 enrolled and 2,233 completing the trial (49.7% recruitment, 97.3% retention). Subjects who were randomized to either Bryonia alba (group 2) or to the CVN01 nosode (group 4) signaled a numerically lower incidence of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 and a shorter period of illness, with evidence of fewer hospitalizations than those taking placebo. The three other groups did not show signals of efficacy.
The authors concluded that this pilot study supports the feasibility of a larger randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Bryonia alba 30c and CVN01 30c should both be explored in disease prevention or shortening the course of disease symptomatology in a COVID-19-exposed population.
Signals of efficacy?
Are they kidding us?
The results failed to be statistically significant!
Hence the conclusions should be rewritten as follows:
This pilot study supports the feasibility of a larger trial in India where people have been told by an irresponsible government to believe in homeopathy. None of the 5 homeopathic treatments generated encouraging findings and none should be explored further. Studies of this nature must be discouraged firstly because homeopaths would not accept the findings of a trial of non-individualized homeopathy, and secondly because such trials will further confuse the public who might think that homeopathy is worth trying.
So-called alternative medicine (SCAM) use has been increasingly prevalent among Americans, whereas its relationship with medical non-adherence is unknown. Using the National Health Interview Survey, this analysis evaluated the use of SCAM modalities and their association with cost-related nonadherence to medical care (CRN) among older Americans by gender strata.
Americans, aged 50 or above in the 2012 National Health Interview Survey, were included to evaluate the use of SCAM modalities and their association with CRN. SCAM modalities were categorized as the use of the following in the past 12 months:
- 1) herbal supplements;
- 2) chiropractic or osteopathic manipulations;
- 3) massage;
- 4) Yoga, tai chi, or qigong;
- 5) Mantra/mindfulness/spiritual meditation,
- 6) acupuncture;
- 7) mind-body therapy;
- 8) other SCAM modalities including homeopathy, naturopathy, traditional healers, energy healing therapy, biofeedback, hypnosis, and craniosacral therapy.
CRN was defined as needing medical care but not receiving it due to costs and/or having medical care delayed due to costs in the past 12 months. The investigators developed a multivariable logit model to assess the association of the use of SCAM modalities and CRN controlling for patients age, gender, race, ethnicity, insurance status (Medicare, Medicaid, VA/Tri-care, no-insurance, or private insurance), and comorbid conditions (diabetes, arthritis, back and neck problems, heart condition, stroke, lung and breathing problems, and cancer).
A total of 16,360 older Americans were included in the analysis, with 11,278 (68.9%) reporting at least one SCAM modality use, and 1,992 (12.2%) of them reported CRN. Among the 8 SCAM modalities, compared to those not using SCAM, those who used chiropractic were 94% more likely (p=0.01), those who used Mantra/mindfulness/spiritual meditation were 106% more likely (p<0.01), and those using other modalities were 42% more likely (p=0.07) to report CRN. In contrast, those who used mind-body therapy were 43% less likely (p=0.04) to report CRN. The other 4 modalities did not achieve statistically significant levels although the odds ratios were mostly greater than 1.
The authors argue that the differential association between the SCAM modality use and CRN suggested a complex relationship between the utilization of SCAM and patients’ non-adherence to medical care. It is possible that the out-of-pocket payments for those services significantly increased patients’ cost burden and thus made the use of other medical care unaffordable, and it’s also possible that those who already had low resources were more likely to seek SCAM to substitute for more expensive conventional care. Either of these scenarios would present a serious challenge.
The authors concluded that both men and women are more likely to report financial distress while using various SCAM modalities.
These findings are not easy to interpret. To me, they suggest that, in the US, many consumers have been persuaded to prioritize SCAM over conventional medicine, even if they can ill afford it. It throws a dim light on the US society where some folks seem to struggle to pay for what is essential while continuing to afford the superfluous.
In my view, in a just and non-decadent society, conventional healthcare must be free for everyone at the point of delivery, and SCAM is at best an extra that those who want it should pay out of their own pocket.
I was alerted to an interesting article about homeopathy in Switzerland. Its author points out that homeopathy is paid for by health insurance in Switzerland because of anything remotely related to evidence but because of a referendum in 2009. At the time, one of the arguments of the proponents was that health care costs would tend to decrease if more so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) would be paid for by the public purse. This is what Jacques de Haller, the president of the medical association, claimed: because SCAM is comparatively cheap and helps to prevent more expensive consultations, the total cost of health care would decrease.
This rather naive assumption was also one made in 2005 by the ‘Smallwood-Report’, commissioned by Charles and paid for by Dame Shirley Porter, specifically to inform health ministers. It stated that up to 480 million pounds could be saved if one in 10 family doctors offered homeopathy as an alternative to standard drugs. Savings of up to 3.5 billion pounds could be achieved by offering spinal manipulation rather than drugs to people with back pain. (Because I had commented on this report, Prince Charles’ first private secretary asked the vice-chancellor of Exeter University, Steve Smith, to investigate. Even though I was found to be not guilty of any wrongdoing, specifically of violating confidentiality, all local support stopped which led to my decision to retire early.)
In Switzerland, the assumption that SCAM saves money was refuted in 2019 by the Swiss health insurance association Santésuisse in a proper cost analysis. According to this analysis, doctors who also prescribed homeopathy caused 22% more costs per patient than those practicing conventional medicine. As it turned out, SCAM would be charged in addition to existing conventional medical services. Consequently, from a point of view of health economics, SCAM should not be called “alternative”, but rather “additive”, Santésuisse wrote at the time.
More evidence comes from a German study (authored by proponents of homeopathy!) that confirms these findings. Integrated care contracts for homeopathy by German health insurers were shown to result in higher costs across all diagnoses.
The recognition that homeopathy lacks sound evidence has already led to an end of reimbursement in the UK and France. Both in Germany and Switzerland, strong pro-homeopathy lobbies have so far succeeded in preventing similar actions. Yet, there is no doubt that, in these and other countries, the writing is on the wall.
They say, one has to try everything at least once – except line-dancing and incest. So, when I was invited to co-organize a petition, I considered it and thought: WHY NOT?
Here is the text (as translated by myself) of our petition to the German Medical Association:
Dear President Dr Reinhardt,
Dear Ms Lundershausen,
Dear Ms Johna,
We, the undersigned doctors, would like to draw your attention to the insistence of individual state medical associations on preserving “homeopathy” as a component of continuing medical education. We hope that you, by virtue of your office, will ensure a nationwide regulation so that this form of sham treatment , as has already happened in other European countries, can no longer call itself part of medicine.
We justify our request by the following facts:
- After the landmark vote in Bremen in September 2019 to remove “homeopathy” from the medical training regulations, 10 other state medical associations have so far followed Bremen’s example. For reasons of credibility and transparency, it would be desirable if the main features of the training content taught were not coordinated locally in the future, but centrally and uniformly across the country so that there is no “training tourism”. Because changes to a state’s own regulations of postgraduate training are only binding for the examination committee of the respective state, this does not affect national regulations but is reduced to only a symbolic character without sufficient effects on the portfolio of medical education nationwide.
- Medicine always works through the combination of a specifically effective part and non-specific placebo effects. By insisting on a pseudo-medical methodology – as is “homeopathy” represents in our opinion – patients are deprived of the specific effective part and often unnecessarily deprived of therapy appropriate to the indication. Tragically, it happens again and again that the “therapeutic window of opportunity” for an appropriate therapy is missed, tumors can grow to inoperable size, etc.
- Due to the insistence of individual state medical associations on the “homeopathic doctrine of healing” as part of the medical profession, we are increasingly exposed to the blanket accusation that, by tolerating this doctrine, we are supporting and promoting ways of thinking and world views that are detached from science. This is a dangerous situation, which in times of a pandemic manifests itself in misguided aggression reflected not just in vaccination skepticism and vaccination refusal, but also in unacceptable personal attacks and assaults on vaccinating colleagues in private practice.
Dr. med. Dent. Hans-Werner Bertelsen
Prof. Dr. med. Edzard Ernst
George A. Rausche
You can sign the petition here:
Prior research has generated inconsistent results regarding vaccination rates among patients using so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). Given that SCAM includes a wide range of therapies – about 400 different treatments have been counted – variable vaccination patterns may occur within consultations with different types of SCAM practitioners.
A recent analysis aimed to evaluate differences between categories of SCAM regarding vaccination behavior among US adults.
were less likely to be vaccinated. Other SCAMs showed no significant association with flu vaccination behavior. Independent predictors for a flu shot were prior diabetes, cancer, current asthma, kidney disease, overweight and current pregnancy. As well, higher educational level, age, ethnicity, health insurance coverage, and having seen a general physician or medical specialist in the past 12 months were also associated with a higher vaccination rate.
The authors concluded that SCAM users were equally likely to receive an influenza vaccination compared with non-users. Different SCAM therapies showed varied associations with vaccination behavior. Further analyses may be needed to distinguish influencing factors among patients’ vaccination behavior.
This survey confirms what we have discussed repeatedly on this blog (see, for instance here, here, here, here, and here). The reason why consumers who consult naturopaths, homeopaths, or chiropractors get vaccinated less regularly is presumably that these practitioners tend to advise against vaccinations. And why do they do that?
- Naturopaths claim that vaccines are toxic and their therapeutic options protect against infections.
- Homeopaths claim that vaccines are toxic and their therapeutic options protect against infections.
- Chiropractors claim that vaccines are toxic and their therapeutic options protect against infections.
Do these ‘therapeutic options’ – detox, nosodes, spinal manipulation – have anything in common?
Yes, they are bogus!
Many naturopaths, homeopaths, and chiropractors seem to be a risk to public health.