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Alt Truth: Naturopaths spread anti-vaxxer myths

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Timothy Caulfield is a Canada Research Chair in health law and policy at the University of Alberta, a Trudeau Fellow and author of Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?: When Celebrity Culture And Science Clash (Penguin, 2015).

There is growing concern about vaccination rates in Canada. .….

In some parts of (Canada), the vaccination rates have fallen below the level needed to achieve herd immunity.  The reasons for less-than-ideal vaccination rates are complex and multifactorial, but the continued spread of anti-vaccination myths and misinformation is clearly contributing to the dilemma. Indeed, some of the recent disease outbreaks – such as the recent spread of measles in Minnesota – can be traced to the push of misleading anti-vaccination rhetoric.

Unfortunately, much of this science-free vaccination noise comes from health-care practitioners, especially those in the complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) community. ….. This must stop.

Working with my colleagues, Sandro Marcon and Blake Murdoch, we examined more than 300 websites for naturopaths and naturopathic clinics in Alberta and British Columbia. In this study, which was recently published in the Journal of Law and the Biosciences, we identified 53 websites that had vaccination-hesitant language and/or suggested a vaccination alternative. In other words, a significant number of naturopaths – that is, members of a provincially regulated health profession – are explicitly and publicly spreading nonsense about vaccination. And this ignoble list doesn’t include the clinics (and there are many) that make baseless claims about how to naturally “boost” your immune system.

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If naturopaths fail to regulate themselves – which seems the likely outcome – then provincial governments should revisit how these kinds of alternative practitioners are regulated, including considering increased regulatory restrictions and third-party oversight to ensure adherence to science-based standards of practice.

Naturopaths are increasingly claiming that they are part of an evidence-informed profession. Prove it.


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