Antivaxxers finding allies in more than a few chiropractors

Plenty of chiropractors are surely in favor of vaccinating children. But at a time when mandatory immunization bills are pending in numerous states, more than enough of them have organized against the norm to raise many eyebrows and considerable Cain.

From political action committees (PACs) to ad campaigns to grassroots fundraising drives and sidewalk demonstrations, it turns out, a conspicuous sub-segment of the nation’s nonmedical, nonsurgical spine specialists is throwing its weight behind the antivaccine movement.

An edifying feature posted at Undark looks at the gathering storm in some detail.

Chiropractors’ evidently growing alliance with “antivaxxers” underscores “the uncertain role that the country’s more than 70,000 chiropractors occupy in the American medical system,” notes the article’s author, Michael Schulson, “where they sit somewhere between mainstream care—certain chiropractic services are covered under Medicare and some Medicaid plans—and the wide world of alternative therapies.”

Schulson follows the trail to some unexpected corners, including 19th-century Iowa, where one D.D. Palmer, “a healer who claimed to use magnetism to fix various ailments, reported that he had restored hearing to a partially deaf janitor after forcefully resetting the vertebrate in the man’s upper spine.”

Palmer went on to claim that such spinal manipulations can cure many if not most diseases, we learn. He may have been earnest, but so were MDs and prosecutors who saw to it that hundreds of chiropractors, including Palmer, went to jail.

Winding back to the present conflict, Schulson looks at chiropractors’ role in a number of legal battles over vaccination in various states. Most such fights pit defenders of children’s safety against protectors of personal liberties.

He notes that, so far, courts have tended to favor the children’s safety advocates.

Succinctly voicing that side’s argument is Paul Offit, MD, of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

“It is not your inalienable right to allow your child to catch and transmit a potentially fatal infection,” says Offit, a prominent vaccine proponent.

Among the reporter’s dispassionate sources is James Colgrove, PhD, MPH, a public-health professor at Columbia University who has studied historical disputes over vaccines.

“The [anti-vaxxers’] argument is that people have an inherent right to decide how they want to medicate their bodies, what kind of medical systems they want,” Colgrove says. Those who make this case believe compulsory vaccination laws, he explains, privilege “a certain school of medicine over other forms of medicine like chiropractic, like homeopathy, like herbalism, like naturalism.”

Schulson found it hard to come by numbers that would quantify how many chiropractors have joined the battle, leaving only strong anecdotal evidence to go by. He does cite a 2014 survey of more than 500 Canadian chiropractors in which more than half the respondents agreed that vaccinations had improved public health.

“Nevertheless,” he writes, “many chiropractors oppose vaccination, sometimes tailoring treatments to families that choose not to vaccinate.”

To read the full article, click here.