Chiropractic and antivax: Two quacky tastes that taste quacky together

Chiropractic is supposed to be the “respectable” face of “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM). At least, that’s what chiropractors want you to think. After all, chiropractors are licensed in all 50 states and thus their specialty has the imprimatur of the state to make it appear legitimate. Unfortunately, chiropractors are, as I have said so many times before, physical therapists with delusions of grandeur—and poorly trained as physical therapists at that. They just can’t restrict themselves to the musculoskeletal system and can’t resist pontificating about and treating systemic illnesses that they should have no part in treating, such as allergies, asthma, diabetes, and many more. They also have a strong tendency to be militantly antivaccine, although there is a small contingent that is not. The vaccination-friendly (or at least vaccination-agnostic) group of chiropractors appears to be depressingly small, however.

Consistent with this, a few days ago I saw a notice on the website of arguably the oldest antivaccine group in the US still in existence, the Orwellian-named National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association (ICPA), which was founded by Dr. Larry Webster and represents doctors of chiropractic caring for children. Leaving aside for the moment the horrific shiver that ran down my spine to learn that there is actually an organization called the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association, I got an even more horrific shiver to see the actual notice on the NVIC website:

The International Chiropractic Pediatric Association (ICPA), which was founded by Dr. Larry Webster and represents doctors of chiropractic caring for children, has supported NVIC’s mission to prevent vaccine injuries and deaths through public education and to protect informed consent rights for more than two decades. ICPA’s 2013 issue of Pathways to Family Wellness magazine features an article written by Barbara Loe Fisher on “The Moral Right to Religious and Conscientious Belief Exemptions to Vaccination.”

Lovely. Just lovely. The ICPA is featuring an article by the grande dame of the antivaccine movement in the US, Barbara Loe Fisher, the woman who arguably was key in the 1980s to founding what evolved into the antivaccine movement we know it and detest it today. It goes way beyond that, though. Curious about what sorts of things the ICPA is saying about vaccinations, I moseyed on over to the ICPA website and the website of the Pathways to Family Wellness magazine and took a look.

It didn’t take me long to find Barbara Loe Fisher’s article, Opting Out: The Moral Right to Religious and Conscientious Belief Exemptions to Vaccination, although it appears not to be available online yet. I can predict what it probably says, because it’ll be the same thing Fisher has been doing for years and the same thing the antivaccine movement has been doing for years: Using and misusing religious and philosophical exemptions because of their antivaccine fears rather than any real philosophical objection to vaccines other than, “I think they cause autism.” Sadly, it looks as though Fisher has been a multiple contributor to the IPCA magazine, having published three articles before this one:

“Informed consent”? You keep using that term, Ms. Fisher. I do not think it means what you think it means. And it doesn’t. If you are claiming that autism is a risk of vaccination, that is not informed consent. That is what I refer to as misinformed consent. If you strongly imply that vaccines are responsible for diabetes, asthma, and learning disabilities, as Fisher does in this article, that is not informed consent. That is misinformed consent. If you claim that “highly vaccinated children are “so sick” because of vaccines, that is not informed consent, that is misinformed consent. If you write something like this:

It is not easy to stand up for the right to make informed, voluntary choices about vaccination when public health officials, the pharmaceutical industry and many medical doctors are putting pressure on all Americans, especially parents, to use every government recommended vaccine. The fact that the numbers of doses of government mandated vaccines have tripled in the past quarter century, while the numbers of chronically ill and disabled children have also tripled, offers an opportunity to have a long overdue public conversation about the effects of vaccination on individual and public health.

Remember > Freedom of thought and the exercise of free speech is protected under the U.S. Constitution. You have the right to talk privately and publicly about any concerns you have about vaccine necessity, safety and effectiveness, and to work with your elected officials to modify the vaccine laws in your state. Become an engaged, courageous citizen activist and protect your right to make vaccine choices.

In addition to promoting misinformed consent, you are a living embodiment of the Dunning-Kruger effect combined with the arrogance of ignorance resulting in a martyr complex.

But that’s not all I find in the IPCA Pathways to Wellness magazine. Take a look at this issue claiming to be about the science behind healthy babies. Other than regular chiropractic adjustments (presumably), apparently happy babies mean unvaccinated babies as well, although how happy babies dying of whooping cough or suffering measles encephalitis can be happy babies, I don’t know. But, then, I’m not a chiropractor. Neither is antivaccine activist Rev. Lisa K. Sykes, either, but she sure is as antivaccine as any chiropractor. Of the various factions of antivaccine activists (the Wakefieldians, the mercury militia, and the toxic avengers), Sykes is clearly part of the mercury militia, given her close connections to the mercury militia through her close ties to connection to Mark and David Geier and her role as president of the antivaccine group the Coalition for Mercury-free Drugs (CoMeD, Inc.). Not surprisingly, she trots out all the old antivaccine tropes against thimerosal-containing vaccines, which have been studied multiple times, with no correlation between thimerosal and autism found in large, well-designed epidemiological studies.

Basically, her article from last winter was about how the World Health Organization was considering how to handle mercury-containing thimerosal in vaccines as it worked on a treaty to ban mercury in various products worldwide. Because various medical groups were urging the WHO not to ban thimerosal in vaccines because it would have devastating consequences to vaccination efforts in Third World countries, where refrigeration is often lacking and the cost of vaccines would become prohibitive if only single dose vials could be used and no thimerosal could be used as a preservative. Naturally, Sykes calls this a “double standard.” I call it a reasonable compromise to maintain current efforts to vaccinate children in poor countries against deadly diseases based in social justice, particularly given that the hypothesis that mercury in vaccines is a significant cause of or contributor to autism is a dead hypothesis that hasn’t survived basic science and clinical trials.

Chiropractors desperately want to be taken seriously. They crave respectability. Many of them even seem to think that they can be primary care providers and want health insurance companies to pay for their services as primary care providers, an idea so ludicrous that it would have me rolling on the floor in paroxysms of laughter were it not for the horror I feel imagining chiropractors trying to manage common health problems that they are completely unqualified to deal with. If you really want to know why chiropractors are utterly unqualified for such a role (aside from all the other reasons, such as the vitalistic nature of chiropractic and its basis in treating something that doesn’t exist—subluxations—as the cause of all disease), just remember how a major pediatric chiropractic organization (the IPCA) is antivaccine to the core, as epitomized by this statement by the ICPA executive director:

ICPA also has initiated parenting support groups that meet monthly to discuss health and parenting topics. Meetings are hosted by local doctors of chiropractic and the Pathways website features a directory of local groups. ICPA Executive Director Dr. Jeanne Ohm said “We look forward to many more years of collaborating with NVIC to forward our shared goal of enhancing and protecting the ability of parents to make fully informed health and wellness choices for their children.”

Chiropractic and antivaccine: Two quacky tastes that taste quacky together.