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

vaccination

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It has been reported that America’s Frontline Doctors (a right-wing organization that is associated with the ‘Tea Party’) is suing one of its founders in a battle for control over the controversial group, which gained national notoriety for spreading misinformation about COVID-19 treatments and vaccines during the pandemic.

The organization and its current board chairman have sued Simone Gold, MD, alleging that she misused the nonprofit organization’s funds to buy a $3.6 million Florida mansion, purchase a Mercedes-Benz and other luxury vehicles, and take trips on private planes.

The lawsuit, filed November 4 in federal court, comes just months after Gold was released from prison for her role in the January 6 US Capitol insurrection. Gold pleaded guilty to trespassing in the Capitol and was sentenced to 60 days in federal prison.

The group and the board chairman, Joseph Gilbert, claim that after her release from prison, Gold attempted to reassert control of the group, take over its website, and fraudulently represent herself as its director, according to the complaint. The complaint referred to Gold as a “rogue founder,” alleging that she spent almost $50,000 monthly on personal expenses using the organization’s credit cards.

Gold resigned from the group’s board in February ― before she pled guilty ― so that she could pursue her goal of opening health and wellness centers nationwide, according to the complaint. At that time, the board voted Gilbert to be its chairman and agreed to have Gilbert negotiate an agreement for Gold to serve as a consultant. Gold sought a “signing bonus” of $1.5 million, along with $50,000 to be paid monthly as a consulting fee, according to the complaint.

Another report has more details on Gold’s alleged wrong-doing: The complaint claims that in November 2021, Gold used “AFLDS charitable funds to purchase a $3.6 million home in Naples, Florida for her personal rent-free use, and at least three vehicles and has otherwise used AFLDS funds to resource her personal lifestyle and expenses since she formed AFLDS.” Plaintiffs also allege that Gold “currently lives in this home with John Strand, rent free.” Strand is a former underwear model and boyfriend of Gold’s who was arrested with her in connection with the January 6, 2021 insurrection in the U.S. Capitol. She moved with Strand to Florida this year from Los Angeles, where she had been an emergency room physician. Strand allegedly was paid $10,000 per month as an AFLDS employee and allegedly spent $15,000 to $17,000 a month using those credit cards. He was terminated from AFLDS in summer 2022, according to the complaint. In addition to purchasing the house with AFLDS funds, the complaint said Gold purchased a Mercedes Benz Sprinter van, a Hyundai Genesis, and a GMC Denali. After taking possession of the Naples home, she used AFLDS funds to pay a personal security officer $12,000, a personal housekeeper $5,600 a month, and charged “nearly $50,000 per month” to AFLDS credit cards.

I tried to find some information on th health and wellness centers that Simone Gold wanted or did open. Alas I was unsuccessful in my endeavor. However, I found an interesting passage she once wrote:

The World Health Organization, the FDA, the NIH, and the CDC are proven liars who have lost all credibility and common-sense, while jeopardizing YOUR health and safety. What disgusts me most is how their failed prescriptions have exposed the most vulnerable: our elderly and our children. The New York Times, CNN, NPR, and hundreds of other news outlets have censored the truth in order to preserve their power. Twitter, Facebook, Google/YouTube, Apple, and dozens of other Tech companies are throttling down content, suppressing information, and de-platforming those with whom they disagree.

I find it hard to find words for a comment – except perhaps this: maybe it is not such a bad thing when anti-vaxxers fight each other; it means they have less time, energy, and money to confuse the public with their lies.

In this paper, a team of US researchers mined opinions on homeopathy for COVID-19 expressed on Twitter. Their investigation was conducted with a dataset of nearly 60K tweets collected during a seven-month period ending in July 2020. The researchers first built text classifiers (linear and neural models) to mine opinions on homeopathy (positive, negative, neutral) from tweets using a dataset of 2400 hand-labeled tweets obtaining an average macro F-score of 81.5% for the positive and negative classes. The researchers applied this model to identify opinions from the full dataset.

The results show that the number of unique positive tweets is twice that of the number of unique negative tweets; but when including retweets, there are 23% more negative tweets overall indicating that negative tweets are getting more retweets and better traction on Twitter. Using a word shift graph analysis on the Twitter bios of authors of positive and negative tweets, the researchers observed that opinions on homeopathy appear to be correlated with political/religious ideologies of the authors (e.g., liberal vs nationalist, atheist vs Hindu).

The authors drew the following conclusions: to our knowledge, this is the first study to analyze public opinions on homeopathy on any social media platform. Our results surface a tricky landscape for public health agencies as they promote evidence-based therapies and preventative measures for COVID-19.

I am not clear on how to interpret this study. What does it show and why is it important? The authors state this:

… our study cannot lead to meaningful conclusions about homeopathy’s overall online landscape. We also enforced the English language constraint while analyzing the tweets which excludes the views and opinions of all the non-English speaking users, who constitute an overwhelming majority of the world’s population. However, our effort is a first step in the direction of examining the support for alternative medicines especially for homeopathy which has not been studied in the past. At least on Twitter, our findings indicate that negative opinions are gaining more traction in the context of COVID-19.

Opinions expressed on Twitter are influenced by an array of entirely different factors many of which are unpredictable or even unknown. Therefore, I am unsure what to make of these findings. Perhaps some of my readers have an idea?

Yesterday, L’EXPRESS published an interview with me. It was introduced with these words (my translation):

Professor emeritus at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, Edzard Ernst is certainly the best connoisseur of unconventional healing practices. For 25 years, he has been sifting through the scientific evaluation of these so-called “alternative” medicines. With a single goal: to provide an objective view, based on solid evidence, of the reality of the benefits and risks of these therapies. While this former homeopathic doctor initially thought he was bringing them a certain legitimacy, he has become one of their most enlightened critics. It is notable as a result of his work that the British health system, the NHS, gave up covering homeopathy. Since then, he has never ceased to alert us to the abuses and lies associated with these practices. For L’Express, he looks back at the challenges of regulating this vast sector and deciphers the main concepts put forward by “wellness” professionals – holism, detox, prevention, strengthening the immune system, etc.

The interview itself is quite extraordinary, in my view. While UK, US, and German journalists usually are at pains to tone down my often outspoken answers, the French journalists (there were two doing the interview with me) did nothing of the sort. This starts with the title of the piece: “Homeopathy is implausible but energy healing takes the biscuit”.

The overall result is one of the most outspoken interviews of my entire career. Let me offer you a few examples (again my translation):

Why are you so critical of celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow who promote these wellness methods?

Sadly, we have gone from evidence-based medicine to celebrity-based medicine. A celebrity without any medical background becomes infatuated with a certain method. They popularize this form of treatment, very often making money from it. The best example of this is Prince Charles, sorry Charles III, who spent forty years of his life promoting very strange things under the guise of defending alternative medicine. He even tried to market a “detox” tincture, based on artichoke and dandelion, which was quickly withdrawn from the market.

How to regulate this sector of wellness and alternative medicines? Today, anyone can present himself as a naturopath or yoga teacher…

Each country has its own regulation, or rather its own lack of regulation. In Germany, for instance, we have the “Heilpraktikter”. Anyone can get this paramedical status, you just have to pass an exam showing that you are not a danger to the public. You can retake this exam as often as you want. Even the dumbest will eventually pass. But these practitioners have an incredible amount of freedom, they even may give infusions and injections. So there is a two-tier health care system, with university-trained doctors and these practitioners.

In France, you have non-medical practitioners who are fighting for recognition. Osteopaths are a good example. They are not officially recognized as a health profession. Many schools have popped up to train them, promising a good income to their students, but today there are too many osteopaths compared to the demand of the patients (knowing that nobody really needs an osteopath to begin with…). Naturopaths are in the same situation.

In Great Britain, osteopaths and chiropractors are regulated by statute. There is even a Royal College dedicated to chiropractic. It’s a bit like having a Royal College for hairdressers! It’s stupid, but we have that. We also have professionals like naturopaths, acupuncturists, or herbalists who have an intermediate status. So it’s a very complex area, depending on the state. It is high time to have more uniform regulations in Europe.

But what would adequate regulation look like?

From my point of view, if you really regulate a profession like homeopaths, it means that these professionals may only practice according to the best scientific evidence available. Which, in practice, means that a homeopath cannot practice homeopathy. This is why these practitioners have a schizophrenic attitude toward regulation. On the one hand, they would like to be recognized to gain credibility. But on the other hand, they know very well that a real regulation would mean that they would have to close shop…

What about the side effects of these practices?

If you ask an alternative practitioner about the risks involved, he or she will take exception. The problem is that there is no system in alternative medicine to monitor side effects and risks. However, there have been cases where chiropractors or acupuncturists have killed people. These cases end up in court, but not in the medical literature. The acupuncturists have no problem saying that a hundred deaths due to acupuncture – a figure that can be found in the scientific literature – is negligible compared to the millions of treatments performed every day in this discipline. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. There are many cases that are not published and therefore not included in the data, because there is no real surveillance system for these disciplines.

Do you see a connection between the wellness sector and conspiracy theories? In the US, we saw that Qanon was thriving in the yoga sector, for example…

Several studies have confirmed these links: people who adhere to conspiracy theories also tend to turn to alternative medicine. If you think about it, alternative medicine is itself a conspiracy theory. It is the idea that conventional medicine, in the name of pharmaceutical interests, in particular, wants to suppress certain treatments, which can therefore only exist in an alternative world. But in reality, the pharmaceutical industry is only too eager to take advantage of this craze for alternative products and well-being. Similarly, universities, hospitals, and other health organizations are all too willing to open their doors to these disciplines, despite the lack of evidence of their effectiveness.

 

The ‘Münster Circle‘ is an informal association of multi-disciplinary experts who critically examine issues in and around so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). We exist since June 2016 and are the result of an initiative by Dr Bettina Schöne-Seifert, Professor and Chair of Professor and Chair of Medical Ethics at the University of Münster.

In the past, we have published several documents which have stimulated discussions on SCAM-related subjects. Yesterday, we have published our ‘MEMORANDUM INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE‘. It is a critical analysis of this subject and will hopefully make some waves in Germany and beyond.

Here is its English summary:

The merging of alternative medicine and conventional medicine has been increasingly referred to as Integrative (or Integrated) Medicine (IM) since the 1990s and has largely replaced other terms in this field. Today, IM is represented at all levels.

IM is often characterised with the thesis of the ‘best of both worlds’. However, there is no generally accepted definition of IM. Common descriptions of IM emphasise:

– the combination of conventional and complementary methods,

– the holistic understanding of medicine,

– the great importance of the doctor-patient relationship,

– the hope for optimal therapeutic success,

– the focus on the patient,

– the high value of experiential knowledge.

On closer inspection, the descriptions of IM show numerous inconsistencies. For example, medicine in the hands of doctors is stressed, but it is also emphasised that all relevant professions would be involved. Scientific evidence is emphasised, but at the same time, it is stressed that IM itself includes homeopathy as well as other unsubstantiated treatments and is only ‘guided’ by evidence, i.e. not really evidence-based. It is claimed that IM is to be understood as ‘complementary to science-based medicine’; however, this implies that IM itself is not science-based.

The ‘best of both worlds’ thesis impresses many. However, if one investigates what is meant by ‘best’, one finds that this term is not interpreted in nearly the same way as in conventional medicine. Many claims of IM are elementary components of all good medicine and thus cannot be counted among the characterising features of IM. Finally, it is hard to ignore the fact that the supporters of IM use it as a pretext to introduce unproven or disproven modalities into conventional medicine. Contrary to promises, IM has no discernible potential to improve medicine; rather, it creates confusion and entails considerable dangers. This cannot be in the interest of patients.

Against this background, it must be demanded that IM is critically scrutinised at all levels.

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All healthcare professionals have an ethical obligation to be truthful and act in the best interest of the patient by adhering to the best available evidence. Providing false or misleading information to patients or consumers is thus a breach of medical ethics. In Canada, the authorities have started taking action against nurses that violate these ethical principles.

Now it has been reported that a former registered nurse in West Kelowna has been suspended for four weeks after giving a vulnerable client anti-vaccine information and recommending “alternative pseudoscience” treatments.

According to the terms of a consent agreement posted on the B.C. College of Nurses and Midwives site, Carole Garfield was under investigation for actions that happened in September 2021. The college claims that Garfield contacted the client when she was off duty, using her personal mobile phone and email to give information against the COVID-19 vaccine and recommending so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). The exact nature of the “pseudoscience modalities” Garfield recommended to the client was not listed in the college’s notice.

Garfield’s nursing licence was cancelled back in April, according to the college’s registry. It’s unclear how exactly the four-week suspension will be applied. In addition to her month-long suspension and a public reprimand, Garfield is not allowed to be the sole nurse on duty for six months. She will also be given education about ethics, boundaries, and client confidentiality, as well as the province’s professional nursing standards. “The inquiry committee is satisfied that the terms will protect the public,” read a statement from the college.

In my view, it is high time for professional bodies to act against healthcare professionals who issue misleading information to their patients. In the realm of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM), issuing false or misleading information is extremely common and causes untold harm. Such harm would be largely preventable if the professional bodies in charge would start acting responsibly in the best interest of patients. It is high time that they follow the Canadian example!

In a previous post, I explained that anthroposophic education was founded by Steiner in 1919 to serve the children of employees of the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart, Germany. Pupils of Waldorf or Steiner schools, as they are also frequently called, are encouraged to develop independent thinking and creativity, social responsibility, respect, and compassion.

Waldorf schools implicitly infuse spiritual and mystic concepts into their curriculum. Like some other alternative healthcare practitioners – for instance, doctors promoting integrative medicine, chiropractors, homeopaths, and naturopaths – doctors of anthroposophic medicine tend to advise against childhood immunizations. For this and other reasons, Waldorf schools have long attracted criticism.

Now it has been reported that the district government of Münster has withdrawn the school permit of a Waldorf school in Rheine, Germany, because of “serious deficiencies in the teaching operation”. For the 71 children, school operation ends with the start of the fall vacations at the beginning of October, as the district government announced on Tuesday. Already since the end of 2020 there had been numerous complaints. The school board had not succeeded in eliminating the deficiencies, a proper operation is currently and prospectively not guaranteed.

The list of problems described by the district government is long: there were repeated violations in the health protection of children. A spokesman for the district government said that there had been massive and repeated violations of Corona’s protective measures. In addition, there was a risk of accidents in the playground. The school board had also been unable to stop the misconduct of individual teachers, the district government criticized. “In addition, there is an insufficient supply of teachers, school organizational deficits and a massively disturbed school peace,” it said.

In the end, the basis of trust required for continued operation of the school was no longer given, so the school permit had to be revoked for the sake of the children. “This is an absolutely exceptional case,” the spokesman said. It is presumably the first case under the jurisdiction of the Münster district government, he added.

 

 

Israel’s Health Ministry announced the revocation of Dr. Aryeh Avni’s medical license, after he called to violate the ministry’s COVID guidelines during the pandemic and published defamatory articles against the medical community. The Jerusalem District Court rejected Avni’s appeal following the decision to revoke his medical license. Avni, who was a specialist in general surgery, engaged for years in so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) and had previously been caught forging vaccination certificates. He claimed in court that he operates in the context of freedom of expression and that his objective is to help the public and to rescue patients from the harm caused by medications and vaccines.

About a year and a half ago, the Health Ministry’s disciplinary committee recommended that Avni’s license be suspended for two years, but former Judge Amnon Shtrashnov, who was granted authority by the health minister, rejected the recommendation and ordered the permanent revocation of Avni’s license. In his decision, Shtrashnov called Avni “a charlatan, a clear coronavirus denier and a dangerous trickster, who behaves that way under the aegis of a licensed doctor.” “There must be a distinction between expressing an opinion and incitement, while conducting a smear campaign against medical authorities in order to dissuade the public from acting in accordance with their directive,” District Court Judge Nimrod Flax said in his decision. “A doctor who chooses to conduct a delegitimization campaign of this kind excludes himself, and is behaving in a manner unbefitting a licensed doctor. “And we will say once again – expressing an opinion, absolutely; conducting a campaign of incitement and defamation against his fellow doctors, while attempting to bias public opinion and to prevent the public from acting in accordance with the recommendations of the medical authorities, absolutely not,” added Judge Flax. “In general, criticism of the directives and decisions of the health care system and those who head it is legitimate, but that’s when these things are said in polite language and are based on true facts,” added the judge. “Granting approval to the appellant to continue to possess a medical license, while he continues with his previous practices, and in particular preaches to violate medical directives given by the authorized bodies, cannot accord with the public interest,” added the judge.

__________________________

Dr. Avni has a website where he writes about himself: “During his work in the hospital but also in his private life, Dr. Avni was exposed to the dismal results of conventional cancer treatments, he lost his wife and sister. The difficult events made him think that allopathic medicine is not the only option and he started looking for other solutions. Better, and less dangerous in terms of “do no harm”.
This is how Dr. Avni came in his decades of journey to many methods and treatments that have in common that they treat problems from the root and not only the symptom, they are not harmful, in repairing one disease they do not increase the risk of new disease, they treat the person and do not see only the “disease” And their natural origin.
The more he delved into his research, the more Dr. Avni discovered to his amazement that there were powerful forces trying to silence and obscure vital information about these treatments. In the United States, for example, several dozen doctors died prematurely and for “strange” reasons, these were doctors who opposed vaccines or conventional cancer treatments. In recent years, Dr. Avni has also faced constant persecution by the media and the Ministry of Health, and once his license was suspended. But Dr. Avni did not flinch or fold, this is his life mission and for that we appreciate him and thank him! And we are not the only ones.

____________________________

Personally, I feel that the world is a safer place without anti-vax doctors in clinical practice. Other countries should perhaps follow the example of Israel and be more ready to revoke the licenses of anti-vax charlatans.

Warning: Exceptionally, this post is not on so-called alternative medicine but on a different scam.

The current issue of the BMJ carries an editorial that is worth quoting on my blog, I think. I have never made a secret of the fact that I am against Brexit. In fact, I re-took German nationality because of it. Therefore, I am in agreement with Kamran Abbasi, the BMJ editor and author of the editorial. Here are what I consider the two most important paragraphs from his article:

… In the absence of public debate and meaningful data six years after the UK’s Brexit referendum, we asked Richard Vize to examine the effects of Brexit on health and care (doi:10.1136/bmj.o1870).20 The news isn’t all bad, although there isn’t much good. Brexit hasn’t brought about a cut in NHS funding but did fail to deliver the £350m weekly windfall that Boris Johnson and others promised. The European Working Time Directive remains in place, and the predicted “stampede” of European doctors leaving the NHS hasn’t happened. But the impacts on social care and lower paid staff are harming delivery of care in an increasingly multidisciplinary service.

Health technology, life science industries, and research, where integration with Europe was greatest and benefits most obvious, are being damaged. Promises to cut red tape have created new complexities and been tarnished by suspect procurement practices at the height of the pandemic (doi:10.1136/bmj.o1893).21 Perhaps the most damning legacy of Brexit, however, is the state of unreadiness it created for a pandemic that required utmost readiness. Whether or not you agree Brexit was the right decision, you should at least agree that it is a decision worthy of question, analysis, and redoubled effort if the signs are good and possibly even reversal if the damage is too great.

This quote probably makes more sense if one also reads the paper referenced in its 2nd link. So, please allow me to quote from this article as well:

… In a highly critical report, the Commons Public Account Committee accuses the Department of Health and Social Care of “woefully inadequate record keeping” and failing to meet basic requirements to publicly report ministers’ external meetings or deal with potential conflicts of interest when awarding testing contracts to the company.

The committee said that large gaps in the document trail meant it was impossible to say the contracts were awarded properly in the way that would be expected, even allowing for the exceptional circumstances and accelerated processes in place at the time. The first contract, for £132m, was awarded at the height of the covid pandemic in March 2020, when the department had suspended the normal requirements for competition between suppliers in the award of government contracts.

The report noted that officials were aware of contacts between Matt Hancock, the then health and social care secretary, and Owen Paterson, a Conservative MP and paid consultant for Randox, and of hospitality that Hancock received from Randox’s founder Peter Fitzgerald in 2019, but failed to identify any conflicts of interest before awarding the first contract.

The department set up a “VIP lane,” through which suppliers put forward by officials, MPs, ministers, or Number 10 would be given priority. Suppliers coming through priority routes were awarded £6bn out of the total £7.9bn of testing contracts awarded between May 2020 and March 2021, the committee noted…

This is by no means all, and I do encourage you to read these articles in full. Once you have, you might ask yourself as I do:

Has Britain become a banana republic?

For many years, Dr. Natalie Grams-Nobmann provided evidence-based medical information on social media – including on homeopathy, other forms of so-called alternative medicine, and more recently the COVID pandemic. These activities deservedly earned her plenty of praise but sadly they also made her the target of intolerant, occasionally aggressive people who disagree with the evidence. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, Natalie has recently deleted her Twitter account. To explain her decision, she gave an interview to Marc Zimmer, MDR AKTUELL. With Natalie’s permission, I have translated sections of it and re-publish them here:

Q: What do you think about the case of your Austrian colleague?
A: The case has affected and frightened me terribly. I followed Kellermayr’s work and everything that came afterward. It is simply a terrible example of how little protection one has as a doctor or vaccination educator on social media. It also is a terrible example of how this “hate” does not stay in the realm of social media but spills over into real life. And that we have nothing to counter this “hate”.

Q: You yourself have also drawn consequences and deleted your Twitter account. Can you explain this step?
A: After seven years of vaccination education and medical education on social media, I thought I couldn’t take it anymore. I can’t stand looking into this hell where people celebrate the death of another human being, the suicide of another human being – and see that as an admission of guilt of this really threatened and persecuted doctor and rise above it like that. I think that when even the death of a human being is no longer free of gloating and hatred, then ideology is above everything. I didn’t know how to deal with it anymore. And, of course, it also scared me. I think my death would be celebrated in the same way, and I find that terribly frightening in human terms.

Q: To what extent have you experienced threats so far?
A: … I’ve experienced an incredible amount of different forms of hate – be it threats, insults, slander, or persecution. This has also spilled over into real life for me. I have sometimes given lectures under police protection. I am very glad that it is still sensible to wear a mask in public spaces…  I think that in some cases it really is a life-threatening fear that you have to endure when you speak out on social or other media about vaccination protection or about protective measures. A lot of what you hear has to be reported and followed up. It is not the case that the internet is a lawless space or that my inbox simply has to swallow every insult in the world…

Q: You mentioned the platforms. What about politics? Do you feel supported enough by it and by the authorities?
A: No, not at all and that was certainly the case with the Austrian colleague. In desperation and panic, people turn to the police, and of course, there are individual female officers who react in an excellent way. But I have also heard things like: “Well, then don’t go out in public. Why do you do that? You’re doing it voluntarily, so you have to put up with it”. Or they say that it’s freedom of expression, that everyone is allowed to say anything… If no more discourse is possible, what am I supposed to do? I would like to be able to ensure that I remain objective, that I provide information and do not insult anyone. At the moment I simply don’t see myself in a position to do that because of the many threats.

Q: What do you wish from politics?
A: I would like politicians to draw the right conclusions from this: not just those who shout the loudest must be listened to. The ones who are silenced should be heard as well.

This “silencing” that I have been following throughout the pandemic is a terrible thing. The best and most factual discussants are disappearing more and more from the platforms. I haven’t insulted or threatened or unobjectively excoriated anyone in all my time on social media. Of course, you are allowed to make a joke or use satire. But you’re not allowed to put another person down. And the very people who have always managed to remain objective – despite the well-known strains during the pandemic – are now leaving and this should alarm us all.

____________________

I do, of course, understand and respect Natalie’s decisions. Nevertheless, I am sad that she is partly withdrawing from public life. I feel that, in these difficult times, we need everyone who can contribute to more responsible information for the public. We must try to balance irrationality with rationality. Natalie is particularly gifted in doing just that (she is much more gentle and empathetic in the face of adversity than I, for instance). My hope, therefore, is that things improve, hatred recedes, and she is able to return to public life soon. Regardless of what she decides, I wish her well.

I have been warning the public about the indirect dangers of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) for a very long time. It is now 25 years ago, for instance, that I published an article in the ‘European Journal of Pediatrics’ entitled “The attitude against immunisation within some branches of complementary medicine“. Here is the discussion section of this paper:

… certain groupings within COMPLEMENTARY MEDICINE (CM) may advise their patients against immunisation. Within these groupings, there is, of course, a considerable diversity of attitudes towards immunisation. Therefore
generalisations are difficult and more detailed investigations are required to clarify the issue.

The question arises whether the level of advice against immunisation as it exists today represents a real or only a potential risk. One study from the U.K. demonstrates homoeopathy to be the most prevalent reason for non-compliance with immunisation [30]. The problem may not be confined to naturopathy, chiropractic and homoeopathy. Books relating to CM in general [e.g. 19] also strongly advise against immunisation: “Vaccination may provoke the illness which it is supposed to prevent. People who are vaccinated can transmit the illness, even if they are not ill themselves. The vaccine can make the person more susceptible to the illness … The vaccinated child is a contaminated child”.

At present, our data is insufficient to de®ne which proportion of which complementary practitioners share this
attitude. The origin of this stance against vaccination is largely unknown. For instance, there is nothing in Hahnemann’s writings against immunisation [14]. It may therefore stem from a general antipathy toward modern medicine which seems to be prevalent within CM [7, 19, 23]. A more specific reason is that immunisation is viewed as detrimental, burdened with long-term side effects. It is also felt that it is not fully effective and unnecessary because
better methods of protection exist within CM [16].

Anti-immunisation activists are often unable to argue their case rationally, yet they place advertisements in the daily press warning about immunisation. In Britain, one tragic case has recently been publicised. A physician advised parents against measles vaccination for their child who was suspected of suffering from convulsions. Five years later, the child suffered severe brain damage after contracting measles. The doctor was sued by the parents and found guilty of negligence and ordered to pay £825,000 in damages [1].

In medicine we must, of course, always be vigilant about the risks of our interventions. Each form of immunisation should therefore be continuously scrutinised for its possible risks and benefits. Most forms of immunisation are clearly not entirely free of risk [e.g. 22] – in fact, no effective intervention will ever be entirely risk-free. Therefore the risks have to be discounted against the benefits. It follows that any blanket rejection of immunisation, in general, must be misleading. It endangers not only the individual patient but (if prevalent) also the herd immunity of the community at large. Such unreflected rejection of immunisation, in general, will inevitably do more harm than good.

It is concluded that the advice of some, by no means all complementary practitioners in relation to immunisation represents an area for concern, which requires further research. Complementary practitioners and patients alike should be educated about the risks and benefits of immunisation. Paediatricians should be informed about the present negative attitude of some complementary practitioners and discuss the issue openly with their patients.

_____________________________

I suspect that, had we heeded my caution, researched the subject more thoroughly, and taken appropriate action, the current pandemic might have produced fewer and less vocal anti-vaxxers, and fewer patients might have died.

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