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CAM practitioners share some of the blame for measles epidemic

It's easy to blame Dr Andrew Wakefield and his MMR study for the growing number of measles cases, but many CAM practitioners are also culpable by dissuading people from immunising their children.

It's easy to blame Dr Andrew Wakefield and his MMR study for the growing number of measles cases, but many CAM practitioners are also culpable by dissuading people from immunising their children.

Recent headlines leave little doubt: the UK is heading towards an epidemic of measles infections. About 1,300 cases during 2008. This is, of course, all due to that terribly misleading Lancet article by Wakefield, I hear you say. But, hold on, is it really? I fear CAM practitioners may not be entirely innocent either.

The anti-vaccination stance of CAM practitioners has a long tradition. One of the founding fathers of chiropractic, for instance, wrote "the idea of poisoning healthy people with vaccine virus…is irrational…" and likened immunisation to "being inoculated with rotten pus, which, if it takes, is warranted to give [children] a disease".

Hahnemann, the "inventor" of homeopathy was fascinated by immunization, not least because it seemed to confirm his own concepts of ultra-high dilutions. However, many of his followers came to believe that immunization created illness and that "homeopathic immunisation" was preferable. The "International Meeting on Homeoprophylaxis: immunization and nosodes against epidemics", in Havana in December 2008 showed that these crazy ideas are alive and ticking.

Several surveys from across the world, including the UK, have confirmed that some chiropractors, homeopaths and naturopaths advise parents against immunizing their children. If you find this as hard to believe as I initially did, perhaps some of these quotes will enlighten you:

• "everybody better be darn well frightened about taking any vaccine, under any circumstance, for any reason, at any time in their life."

• "Alternative to Immunization"

• "It is apparently possible to vaccinate a child against Measles Mumps and Rubella using Homeopathy"

• "Homeopathy also offers an alternative to childhood vaccinations or immunisations, with so called "homeopathic vaccinations", more properly called homeopathic prophylaxis"

The government is currently running a range of initiatives to boost vaccination rates so that we don't lose our herd immunity. Nobody, as far as I know, is targeting CAM practitioners.

I submit that educating them about science, medical evidence and immunization would not be a bad idea.

Professor Edzard Ernst Recent posts

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Just because a patient gets better, doesn't mean their treatment worked 28 April 09
Homeopathy for cancer is nothing more than placebo 23 April 09
Do complementary and alternative therapies do more harm than good? 20 April 09
Don't let your practice become an evidence-free zone 15 April 09
Natural doesn't mean safe. And CAM is neither 06 April 09

So-called 'integrated medicine' is disturbing nonsense 30 March 09
Why 'belief' in complementary medicine is misguided 23 March 09

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