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Misinformation, Vaccination and Naturopathy: Why Your Long-Held View Could Be Wrong.

Feature Article Misinformation, Vaccination and Naturopathy:  Why Your Long-Held View Could Be Wrong.
JAN 28, 2022 LISTEN

In recent times, I have been asked by some television hosts, students, friends and patients on whether or not I would have the COVID-19 vaccine. I think it’s a good opportunity to have a conversation about the issue as a Naturopath people look up to in Ghana and beyond, and I believe people are wanting to discuss it. Receiving the Covid-19 vaccine is an individual decision, and I’m putting out my personal view. In a short while, I will have the vaccine, not because I feel vulnerable about my own health, but because I feel I owe it to society to be vaccinated at this point in time. I personally believe that I have been asked severally on my take on the vaccine, due to the fact that I am a Naturopathic researcher, and people assume the Natural Medicine community is against vaccination.

Your Mind Made Up: No Problem?

Well, for those who have already decided against the COVID vaccine, this article is not meant to change your mind. You have every right to be doubtful. Our government institutions, policy makers, regulators and front-runners are as imperfect as any of us. Even experts can get it wrong. Everyone is subject to human shortcomings and can be influenced by hidden agendas.

The issue of vaccination and the Natural Medicine Profession is a complex one. In fact, our community of Natural Medicine Practitioners have often been accused as being vaccine hesitant.

In fact, many are surprised I have a different opinion on vaccination as a Naturopathic Researcher. They believe my support for vaccination as a philosophy in line with Naturopathic Profession is contradictory. Being an objective and a learned Naturopathic Professional, I have realized that people fail to accept that vaccination and the philosophy of natural health have a lot in common than they think. Not all Naturopaths are against vaccination.

Besides, this is a global pandemic! I have read some literature on the good and bad aspects of the vaccination programs. Besides, I do know that the vaccines are not perfect, and they don’t completely prevent people from getting infected. However, what I do know from the literature I have read so far is that the rates of hospitalization, developing complications and deaths from severe Covid-19 infection are almost eliminated in fully vaccinated individuals. This theoretically brings it on the same level of risk as a bad cold, something which is not devastating and gives a good chance of returning to almost ‘normal’.

On one of the Television programs I attended recently to discuss the vaccination programs, there were some concerns of the safety of the vaccines. It was indicated that some people have allergic reactions, while some develop other adverse effects. This, however, is not new and will happen with any vaccine or medical treatment. It is a trade-off, where the benefits significantly outweigh the risks. Having said that, we know that ‘herd immunity’ can be achieved without needing 100% of the community to be vaccinated.

Vaccines support your own immune system to fight COVID.

Naturopaths Against Vaccinations

Recently, in United States v Dr. Mazi 3:21-mj-71156 MAG[2021], a California-based naturopathic doctor was the first person in the United States to face charges of offering fake “homeoprophylaxis immunization” coronavirus vaccines and falsifying COVID-19 vaccination cards saying that the purchasers of the pellets had received doses of the Moderna vaccine and also spreading misinformation concerning the vaccine. From scientific literature, homeopathy does not provide immunity to infectious disease. It does not protect the person who takes the remedy and does not prevent transmission of this or any infection to the people around them.

This is an unethical practice of administering homeopathic substances as a form of immunization, and also an unethical and illegal practice of falsifying vaccine records. NDS for Vaccine.com condemns this behavior and “encourages all naturopathic physicians to recognize the inherent compatibility of immunization and naturopathic philosophy and practice”. This is a well-trained and recognized Naturopathic doctor who misconducted herself in this way. So what do you expect from those natural medicine practitioners who have not received sound Naturopathic Medical education in Ghana?

Another story is the one I also chanced involving the Adelaide naturopath in Australia who recently was disciplined for using a newspaper column to spread vaccine misinformation which made waves. However, though the community is presented with those practitioners who are against vaccination, there are those who support government vaccination programs.

Some Naturopaths Support Vaccinations

In Australia, the director of Australia’s biggest natural medicine society has urged Naturopaths to stay in their lane over vaccination (ABC South West Vic, 2021). Additionally, Trish Clough, an herbalist and Nimbingoodtimes.com herbal medicine columnist publicly advocates for COVID vaccination. She notes: “I believe the decision to vaccinate is a risk vs benefit assessment. For me the benefit of keeping other people safer and reducing deaths is worth what I see as a smaller risk of possible adverse impacts to my health from having the vaccine”.

Natural Health Beliefs and Vaccine hesitancy: Any evidence?

Prof. Jon Wardle, a renowned Naturopathic Doctor and a Professor of Public Health, who is also Maurice Blackmore Chair of Naturopathic Medicine and Foundation Director of the National Centre for Naturopathic Medicine, which was established with a gift from the Blackmore Foundation and a co-convenor of the complementary medicine special interest group of the Public Health Association of Australia discussed this issue on Natural Health philosophy and vaccination in the Conversation.com (2021).

Prof. Wardle held the notion that the link between natural health beliefs and vaccine hesitancy gets a lot of public attention, however, there’s actually little evidence on the topic. For instance, Wardle et al., (2016) review study found opposition to vaccination as an opinion of a minority among natural health practitioners and consumers. They found that, the decision of some Natural Medicine Practitioners to kick against vaccination was based on their individual personal beliefs or emotions, as compared to a default philosophical position associated with natural medicine. In 2021, I wrote an article in the national dailies asserting that naturopathic medicine is not against vaccination. Interestingly, I received mixed messages from international readers. Some were not in support of my exposition supporting vaccination, while others were very impressed with the balanced nature of the exposition. So with regards to vaccination in the natural medicine circle; there are mixed ideas.

In fact, whilst I hold the view that natural medicine practitioners in Ghana are key in the government’s efforts to achieve its vaccination goal, some international Naturopaths such as the NDs for Vaccine.com also hold a similar view, and have also suggested that natural health practitioners could even help support vaccination activities. In fact, NDs for Vaccine condemn the unethical practice of administering homeopathy as a form of immunization as well as the illegal practice of falsifying vaccine records. Dr. Brignall also a member of the NDs for Vaccine notes:

"An important lesson we are all learning in 2021 is that vaccinations work to prevent disease, but they will only let us get back to normal if enough people participate to achieve population immunity, where the nation as a whole is protected."

This means that, there a growing number of naturopathic cohorts who support the practice of naturopathy and vaccination.

The Immune System and Immunization

In an article published by the Immune.org.nz, it is clear that, the adaptive immune response triggered by vaccination is naturopathic in principle. This attests to the fact that vaccination triggers the body’s immune system in the same way “natural” contact to infection does. It just does it in a safer, more controlled way with a much lower dose. Further, another article authored in 2021 by Nyarkotey & Aggrey-Bluwey attested to the fact that Naturopaths and mainstream doctors can coexist with no acrimony. I believe this principle can also apply to Natural Medicine and vaccination programs; they can coexist.

Background to Natural Medicine and vaccination acrimony

This was addressed by Prof. Jon Wardle in a 2021 article published by Conversation.com. According to the renowned Naturopath and a Professor of Public Health, “One main reason for historical opposition to vaccination in natural health communities wasn’t due to the vaccine. It was because they rejected “germ theory” itself; the concept that unseen external pathogens like bacteria and viruses led to disease”.

The notion that diseases could be spread by “seed-like entities” was first described in the 1500’s by Girolamo Fracastoro and was categorized based on how these “entities” could be transmitted. Later, Agostino Bassi in the early 1800’s conducted a series of experiments which demonstrated that a disease afflicting silkworm, at the time, was caused by a parasite. Bassi theorized that disease in humans and animals was also caused by microorganisms. Bassi’s work served to influence Louis Pasteur, who is credited with the germ theory of disease following his experiments demonstrating the relationship between microorganisms and disease.

During his experiments in the 1860s, French chemist Louis Pasteur developed the modern germ theory. He proved that food got spoilt because of contamination by invisible bacteria, not because of spontaneous generation, and this process could be seen typically only by visualizing under high magnification. Germ theory enabled sanitation, vaccines, and effective medicines. All of those things had been technologically possible for centuries. But they were conceptually impossible and so they didn't happen. Germ theory changed cities from death traps to escape hatches.

Germ Theory deposed off Miasma Theory

Before the emergence of the germ theory, the predominant theory of disease in the 19th century was termed “miasma theory”, meaning “pollution” or “bad air”. Miasma theory stipulated that disease originated from the decomposition of organic matter, causing a noxious vapor harboring disease-causing agents. Moreover, individuals could contract disease by inhaling foul-smelling air associated with contaminated drinking water, unsanitary conditions, and air pollution. Though miasma theory is typically associated with the spread of contagious diseases, some academics in the early nineteenth century suggested that the theory extended to other conditions such as obesity. They were of the believe that one could become obese by inhaling the odor of food. The theory was eventually abandoned by scientists and physicians after 1880, replaced by the germ theory of disease: specific germs, not miasma, caused specific diseases. However, cultural beliefs about getting rid of odor made the clean-up of waste a high priority for. The word miasma comes from ancient Greek and means 'pollution'. The idea also gave rise to the name malaria (literally 'bad air') through medieval Italian according to Wikipedia. The idea of miasma theory was of importance to the founder of homeopathy, Hahnemann. Today, the homeopathic society is divided on this theory due to the controversy ( (Bathia, 2007)

Hahnemann headache and Miasma Theory on Chronic diseases.

Hahnemann formulated the miasmatic theory of disease in his 7th decade, documented in his book The Chronic Disease (Watson, 2009). After formulating the Law of Similar and developing the proving, he enjoyed early success treating acute and chronic illness, however he came across cases which the initial improvement ceased to continue (Tyler, 2007; Handley, 1997).

His cases were overshadowed by old symptoms, which didn’t respond to the apparently well-chosen remedy (Haehl, 2003). He also experimented the emergence of new symptoms, which reacted inadequately to the remedies, and finally he would state that the remedies were not better than palliatives, as the acute attacks tended to become more frequent and more serious over time(Klein, 2009). In other words, Hahnemann admitted that the Law of Similar, although carefully applied, doesn’t always lead to success (Whichmann, 2006).

According to Choudhury (2006), Hahnemann thought there could be five reasons responsible for this failure. Firstly, the fact that the law of similar may not be of general application. Next, the number of medicines may be too small to cover all kind of illness, a misuse of the law of similar, forgetfulness in the totality of symptoms, and some probable obstacles which previse perdurable recovery.

Consequently, Hahnemann expended day and night working on long term patients’ cases to arrive at the root of the problem (Tyler, 2007), until he reached the conclusion that there is an obstacle in the organism that cannot be removed with medicines or the healthiest diet or disappear by itself. He named this obstacle a “miasm”.

Early Naturopaths inherited this fight

Early naturopathic pioneer, Henry Lindlahr rejected vaccination in the early 1900s because “germs, bacteria and parasites are products of disease rather than its cause”. He argued “germs themselves cannot create disease – if they could, humanity would soon be extinct”. Also in the early 1900s, chiropractic founder Daniel Palmer rejected the notion there was any cause of disease beyond misalignment of the spine.

It is important to view this historic opposition in context, given germ theory had only become mainstream in conventional medicine in the recent decades before these statements. Views of these natural health professions have similarly evolved; why therefore do we inherit such fight in this modern era where they are no longer in existence to see the state of modern diseases?

The Blame Game

Prof. Wardle noted that natural health communities sometimes raised the presence of “toxins” in vaccines as a concern. He was quick to address this: “It is important to remember, however, that vaccines up until the mid-1900s weren’t like the vaccines of today. First generation smallpox vaccines, for example, were crudely produced from calf lymph in a process considered cruel by animal rights groups, which were often closely linked with natural health movements”.

He further notes: “Also, the natural health community didn’t reserve judgement for vaccines and pharmaceutical medicines. Natural health adherents saw other “drug systems”, such as herbal medicine and homeopathy, as equally invasive and unnatural. Although few would see these therapies as incompatible with natural health today, their adoption by naturopathic practitioners caused significant tensions in the budding “drugless” profession”.

Interestingly, One of Australia’s earliest Australian naturopathic journals blamed medicine for stealing vaccination from natural healers without credit ( https://encore.slsa.sa.gov.au/ ) Is this not funny?

Mike Saks (2000) also posits that as we drew closer to the second half of the 20th century, anti-vaccination statements gradually targeted those commissioned to do the vaccination such as medics. Ultimately, the oppositional stance of “alternative” health included parts of the natural health community.

So as the medical community downgraded the naturopathic profession, some also retaliated from the natural health community and started condemning mainstream medical practice, and this is how we got to where we are today. It is for this reason, that some are against the COVID vaccines, as they deem it unnatural, and rather place their faith in similarly unnatural alternatives such as ivermectin today.

Vaccine Hesitancy: Indications of a broken relationship with the State

Just as vaccine hesitancy can be a proxy for deeper concerns about medicine and the state, conflicts between the natural health community and medicine also came to influence vaccine views, says Prof. Wardle.

Interestingly, Vaccine conspiracy theorists have one thing in common: they have lost their faith in government. On a recent television show I attended with one researcher, he clearly demonstrated that he had lost faith in the State instead of being objective. Some have even claimed government officials, including the President of Ghana, did not receive the main vaccine. They believe that the “vaccine” that the presidents and other dignitaries received is actually a placebo. This situation was also evident in Somanya where some people were of the view that the vaccine aims to change their voting pattern in 2024 to vote for the New Patriotic Party (NPP). It took the President to address this conspiracy theory ( https://www.graphic.com.gh/news/politics/getting-vaccinated-will-not-cause-you-to-vote-npp-in-2024-akufo-addo.html ).

The most interesting thing is that; people you do not expect to believe in this conspiracy theory are rather the ones at the helm of affairs believing them. It is clear that, vaccine hesitancy is a symptom of people’s broken relationship with the state.

Are there Natural Alternative to Vaccines?

Prof. Jon Wardle put it this way: “To put it bluntly, there aren’t any”. He is of the view that, even though some Homeopathic remedies are marketed by some practitioners as alternatives for childhood vaccinations, they actually aren’t alternatives. The most commonly promoted ones are those claiming to protect against infectious diseases such as malaria and even COVID as propagated by Dr. Mazi, who was later prosecuted for misinformation. He revealed that, a 2011 survey found nearly one-quarter of Australians thought these “homeopathic vaccines” were an effective replacement for conventional vaccinations. “Some have even unknowingly received homeopathic vaccinations thinking they’re conventional vaccinations”.

He was however not surprised in this development. According to him, linking homeopathy and vaccination isn’t surprising. Providing the historical perspective, he notes: “Both emerged during the same period in the 1790s and both focused on infectious diseases (vaccination for prevention of smallpox, homeopathy to address symptoms of malaria”.

Homeopathy’s founder, Samuel Hahnemann, viewed vaccination not only as effective and powerful, but also as an extension of and validation of his own theories.

Peter Fisher in 1990, published one article in the British Homeopathic Journal titled “Enough nonsense on immunization.” This is surprising as homeopathic vaccination alternatives aren’t supported by the scientific community. It will also surprise you to note that, they are also not supported by the homeopathic community either.

The homeopath, George Vithoulkas (2016), President, International Academy of Classical Homeopathy, Alonissos, Northern Sporades, Greece, explained in his article titled “Homeoprophylaxis: The Great Misunderstanding” published by Homeopathic Links, notes that the mechanism of action of “homeopathic vaccination” is entirely unsuited with homeopathic theory. In his book, The Science of Homeopathy, published in 1976, there is a chapter on vaccination. He writes: “If a person is really protected by conventional vaccinations, that means the vaccination caused his immune system to be compromised and therefore this specific epidemic cannot affect him according to my theory ‘Levels of Health.”

He further touched on whether homeopathy could also act this way in an epidemic like mainstream vaccination. He had this to say: “What I want you to understand is that homeopathy cannot make you so sick with a remedy that you will never get the epidemic. This is a mechanism, a simple mechanism. Can we, with homeopathy, claim to do this? No. The only thing we can claim is that during the epidemic we can give a common remedy for the epidemic, hoping that it will act”.

The renowned Homeopath finally concludes: “I conclude that we homeopaths have no alternative to vaccinations and I think I have explained this issue properly”.

So I am very sorry to disappoint those who think that there is natural alternative to the mainstream vaccination we have now. Homeopathic vaccines are neither homeopathic nor are they vaccines.

Can we increase our immunity ‘Naturally’?

This is also another very interesting issue, as we have natural medicine campaigners who advocate for this. They believe that, their therapies can offer similar immunity as vaccines. However, one study by Axén et al., (2020), have refuted this claim in both practice and research.

According to Prof. Wardle, what’s more, boosting for a bigger immune response isn’t necessarily better. Boost the wrong parts in favor of others, and a hyperactive immune system can make things worse in the short term, as well as the long term. Autoimmune disease (where an overactive immune system starts attacking the body) is thought to be one of the causes of “long COVID”.

Naturopathic Therapeutic Order in line with vaccination?

In the Naturopathic community, we cement on the therapeutic hierarchy; the guiding rule for therapeutic intervention. Prof. Wardle notes: “This recommends using low level interventions which encourage self-healing processes to avoid more intrusive and invasive therapies where possible”.

He further notes that, vaccines, once properly tested and assessed for safety and efficacy, clearly fit this bill. They’re a minimal dose, preventive intervention that support and develop the body’s own healing resources to fight disease.

“And they offer the opportunity to avoid the alternative of aggressive treatment and management of infection and associated symptoms later on. Ultimately vaccination, like the use of natural therapies, is a matter of personal choice. But as someone passionate about both natural health and public health, the Covid-19 vaccine is one I would highly recommend people accept.

If you’re hesitating to get vaccinated because you’re concerned it may not align with your preferences for a natural approach to health, there’s no need to be. Vaccines may have more in common with natural health approaches than differences”.

Naturopathic Doctors for Vaccines: Position Paper

Interestingly, many international Naturopathic Organizations have released position papers on Naturopathy and vaccination. For instance, Naturopathic Doctors for Vaccination is of the view that Naturopaths are advocates of preventive medicine, while we believe vaccines are a scientifically sound, safe, and effective method of preventing infectious diseases. We recommend immunizations to protect children and adults from adverse consequences of infectious disease, as immunization is included under the naturopathic principle of Prevention.

Vaccination contributes to less utilization of medications and invasive treatments for complications of vaccine-preventable diseases, and is supported by the naturopathic principle of First Do No Harm. Immunizations are well documented to be among the safest preventative measures available against the diseases they prevent and are therefore also supported by this principle. The naturopathic precept of “Doctor as Teacher” directs us to provide unbiased, complete information to patients and/or parents about vaccinations. Many families are excused from or refused entry to pediatric medical practices due to their vaccination hesitation, resistance, or requests for an alternative vaccination schedule, and they therefore may seek out naturopathic physicians for care and vaccine guidance. This situation places naturopathic physicians in an opportune position to provide information and vaccine coverage to those patients who might otherwise receive no vaccines at all. It is our hope to provide a community resource to physicians, medical students and the greater community to help prevent infectious disease and keep our communities safe through the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) schedule. I think I have done my best to explain this position which most of you have been misinformed on vaccination and natural health. Interestingly, from studies, most natural health practitioners in Ghana would have been prosecuted in the advanced countries for misinformation on vaccination.

Disclaimer- The information is meant for general interest only and should not be considered as medical advice.

The author is an honorary Professor, Naturopathic Researcher, chartered management consultant (Canada) and a final semester LLB student. President, Nyarkotey College of Holistic Medicine & Technology (NUCHMT) and African Naturopathic Foundation. E-mail: [email protected]

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