June 19, 2013
I was having a discussion with a patient about "alternative" medicine. She asked me a question about a particular brand of homeopathy and its efficacy. Specifically homeopathic vaccines. My first impression was "homeopathic vaccines?" That is like saying Christians against Christ. I am familiar with homeopathy. Homeopathic vaccines specifically were a mystery to me. This sparked my curiosity. My research revealed information that at first I found amusing, then disturbing, finally degrading into scary. Especially for the residents of Canada where this has become a "popular" form of disease prevention.
For those of the uninitiated in the specifics of homeopathy. Homeopathy originated in 1796 by Samuel Hahnemann, based on his doctrine of similia similibus curentur ("like cures like"), according to which a substance that causes the symptoms of a disease in healthy people will cure similar symptoms in sick people.
Like cures like certainly sounds similar to a vaccine to those with only a passing understanding of vaccines.
Here is a simplistic definition of a vaccine. "Any preparation intended for active immunologic prophylaxis, e.g., preparations of killed microbes of virulent strains or living microbes of attenuated (variant or mutant) strains, or microbial, fungal, plant, protozoal, or metazoan derivatives or product." It is a vast oversimplification to say this is a like vs like treatment. That is similar to saying that a Saturn rocket launch, and a rock thrown in the air, are both ballistic projectiles therefore the same thing.
Vaccines give the body a preview of a bacterium, virus, or toxin, allowing it to learn how to defend itself in advance. When a weakened or dead pathogen is introduced into the bloodstream, the body's B-cells go to work. It is these cells that are responsible for fighting disease-causing pathogens. Once the B-cells are stimulated to act, antibodies are formed and the body develops immunity to the particular pathogen. The antibodies allow the body to provide an overwhelming attack on the invading organism before it can be entrenched.
Homeopathy is not a "Vaccine"
What is a Homeopathy preparation? "The remedies are prepared by repeatedly diluting a chosen substance in alcohol or distilled water, followed by forceful striking on an elastic body, called succussion. Each dilution followed by succussion is said to increase the remedy's potency. Dilution usually continues well past the point where none of the original substance remains. Homeopaths select remedies by consulting reference books known as repertories, considering the totality of the patient's symptoms as well as the patient's personal traits, physical and psychological state, and life history."A homeopathic "vaccine" is called a Nosode. Nosodes are made using saliva, feces, mucus or other material infected with a particular disease or ailment. The substance is mixed with alcohol and diluted until, as homeopaths describe it, it is rendered harmless and can stir an immune response that can protect the consumer from future infection. The solution is often turned into a sugar pill and taken orally. Some how transferring the "memory", vibration, magic or whatever you may call it into a sugar pill.
Simplified overview of Nosodes vs Vaccinations: Vaccines are a tested, proven dosage of a inactivated disease agent to provoke a b-cell immune response. Allowing the body to mount a proper defense when it exposed to actual disease. Nosodes are water that has a "memory" of an unproven untested substance to protect you from a disease somehow transferred to a sugar pill.
My Opinion. This is worse than the criminal negligence of leaving your children unvaccinated. Vaccine refuters know that they and their children can get sick when you go unvaccinated. Albeit with a gross misunderstanding about what is riskier for them and public health. Nosodes are giving the false perception that you are preventing infectious disease without risk. It is marketed and dressed up to sound like a vaccine. In fact it is selling total and complete non-sense. This goes beyond just letting people make silly choices. Homeopaths/Naturopaths are convincing people (you might call them Marks) that this is safer and more effective than "risky" vaccines. This is deceiving well meaning people who are looking for a way to safely prevent disease. When in fact they are being sold water or sugar pills with magic.
For further harm, nosode promoters push anti-vaccine propaganda to encourage you that nosodes are better. Trying to prove that vaccines are bad therefore homeopathy must be good. A simplistic and illogical conclusion. I have included some links in the references so you could check out some of the "Andrew Wakefield is a persecuted hero" propaganda.
In Canada this is a major problem. Health Canada is the department of the government in charge of public health. Health Canada has officially approved about 150 nosodes for sale in Canada, most of them receiving approval in the last five years. They haven't been approved as alternative vaccines, but as homeopathic preparations that are to be used on "the advice of a health-care practitioner." Sounds reasonable at first blush, but is it?
Canada has had significant problems with public health and communicable diseases in the last 5 years. Falling vaccination rates especially in New Brunswick and Quebec. New Brunswick is starting to get its worst-ever whooping cough outbreak under control and there have been numerous measles outbreaks of more than 700 people in Quebec in 2011. Should the official public health outlets be giving any kind of tacit permission to a useless psuedo-vaccine?
The British public does not think so. Mounting public pressure forced the British Homeopathic Association to issue a statement in April saying that traditional vaccination is the only way to reduce transmission of illness and a spokesman for the group told the British newspaper The Guardian that there "is no evidence to suggest homeopathic vaccinations can protect against contagious diseases. We recommend people seek out the conventional treatments.".
Worse for Canadians several Canadian provinces license and recognize Naturopathic Doctors. For all intents and purposes they are health-care practitioners. So it is perfectly legal for them to recommend nosode treatments instead of vaccines. Under the auspices of "the advice of a health-care practitioner." Even though Health Canada has in no way approved them to be vaccine replacements.
If you think we are immune (pun intended) in the US. Sorry sadly mistaken. I included one of many links to a Minnesota Homeopath pushing the same non-sense.
This is the type of back door assault on science based medicine that makes me oppose licencing and legalizing of prescriptive rights in the US for Homeopaths and Naturopaths. Unproven, dis-proven, pre-scientific, and implausible alternative treatments have too great a negative impact on public health.
People often say "what is the harm?". It's just water.... It could work.... It worked for me...et AL. In my opinion, perpetuating false and misleading information, and allowing peddling of useless and ineffective treatments to the public is socially and ethically irresponsible. It needs to stopped. It should not given the pleasant falsehood moniker of "Alternative".
If you live in Canada and want to make your voice heard.
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