One of the largest homeopathic colleges in Canada has promoted unscientific, false claims about the dangers of vaccines, and advocates the use of ineffective alternatives called nosodes.
The Canadian College of Homeopathic Medicine has posted information on its official social media pages that suggests vaccines are unsafe, including a link on its Facebook site last November to an article on a conspiracy theory website that erroneously claims the flu vaccine causes people to get sick and contains toxic levels of mercury.
Last March, the college tweeted a link to an article on an anti-vaccine website that claims vaccines cause autism. The organization also published a letter on its website in 2013 that stated vaccines are “inherently unsafe” and nosodes are “more effective and safer” than the real thing.
After The Globe and Mail contacted the college on Monday, it removed or changed several posts regarding vaccines and nosodes. An introduction to the 2013 letter was altered to distance the organization from the content and underline that it does not necessarily reflect the college’s views. The revised preamble also states that it is “not the mission” of homeopathy to be for or against vaccination, and that homeopaths “can prescribe remedies that may lessen the chance of contracting diseases” but that testing for this is limited.
However, the college goes on to state that “further research must be done” to assess the safety of vaccines.
The college did not return calls seeking comment.
Health Canada has approved more than 100 nosodes, referred to also as homeopathic immunization or homeoprophylaxis, but not for marketing as vaccine alternatives. Despite this, some homeopaths, licensed naturopaths and chiropractors continue to tout nosodes as vaccine alternatives and promote unscientific information about the safety of vaccines.
In response to growing pressure from public-health leaders to crack down on the marketing and use of so-called homeopathic vaccines, federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose and Gregory Taylor, Canada’s chief public health officer, issued a statement on Friday declaring that there are no alternatives to vaccines.
However, several critics say Health Canada’s decision to give its stamp of approval to nosodes makes them seem safe and effective. They are calling for the approval to be reversed and for provincial regulatory colleges to discipline members who break code of conduct rules by promoting false information about vaccines.
For instance, despite numerous publicized examples of Ontario naturopaths and chiropractors promoting false information about vaccines, their governing bodies say they have no plans to initiate investigations and crack down on members who are found to be making such claims.
“There doesn’t seem to be any consequences, at least to date, or the response is very muted,” said Timothy Caulfield, Canada Research Chair in health law and policy at the University of Alberta’s School of Public Health. “If this was a physician, this would be bordering on malpractice.”
Ontario is expected to regulate homeopathy in the near future, which means homeopaths will be governed by a regulatory college similar to those for chiropractors and doctors.
Basil Ziv, registrar for the transitional council that will be in place until the official regulatory body, the College of Homeopaths of Ontario, is up and running, said there is no such thing as homeopathic vaccination. He added that the regulatory college will create clear guidelines for members on vaccines and communicate that nosodes are not a replacement.
“I think that a lot of these misconceptions will be cleared up,” he said.
Photo Credit: Chad Hipolito For The Globe and Mail