Naturopathic Nonsense about Immunization
A Response to Jim Sensenig, N.D.

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

One reason naturopaths (NDs) are held in low regard is their historical opposition to immunization. Some naturopaths now claim that this opposition does not reflect the current view of NDs trained in accredited schools. However, a close look indicates that opposition is deeply rooted [1].

In 2015, NUNM Press, the publishing arm of the National University of Naturopathic Medicine, published a book called Vaccination and Naturopathic Medicine: In Their Own Words. Spanning 400 pages, the book includes more than 50 essays by naturopaths, offbeat medical doctors, and other critics that were published between 1900 and 1923 plus recent essays that place the old writings in current perspective. The forward, preface, and introduction are available online [2].

The foreword was written by Jim Sensenig, N.D.,who has taught at three of the five accredited naturopathy schools in the United States. His clinic's Web site states that he (a) graduated from the National College of Naturopathic Medicine and later served as Dean of Education, (b) was founding President of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians and chaired of its Government Affairs Committee for ten years, (c) was the founding Dean of the College of Naturopathic Medicine at the University of Bridgeport (Connecticut), and (d) is a faculty member of the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine [3]. Here are excerpts from the foreword accompanied by comments from me.

Sensenig's Assertions My Responses
The objections to vaccination after its introduction into western medicine, and as it is still practiced in conventional medicine, are straightforward. It is potentially harmful and often not effective. . . . Experience in the naturopathic approach to medicine teaches that the best way to prevent disease, including infectious disease, is to maintain robust good health in so far as possible and when needed to use treatments that pose no harm. These must be the goals of any rational medical system. It may be difficult for the modern reader to understand how good health and increased resistance to disease can protect one from germs since we have been told for over a hundred and fifty years to fear these invisible microbes as the cause of our ills. Whether someone gets a specific infectious disease depends on the person's general health, the extent of the exposure, and the contagiousness of the infectious agent. Although it can be assumed that a healthy lifestyle is likely to produce more favorable outcomes, naturopathy offers nothing that has been proven superior to standard medical advice about lifestyle.

The naturopathic understanding of the cause of disease calls into question the validity of the germ theory of disease, a key departure point for the naturopathic professional from the conventional belief that we are at the mercy of microbes. This is not merely an academic question; rather, it forms the basis for the very argument in support of vaccination and for the fear-based beliefs in recommending them, and even for mandating them.

Medical science does not claim that people "are at the mercy of microbes." The germ theory—perhaps the most important medical discovery every made—became the cornerstone of medical and public health efforts that ultimately saved billions of lives. The idea that germs don't cause disease is preposterous.

 

As you read through these pages, it will become clear that many doctors within the dominant school of medicine contended that vaccination can be harmful. Many of our own forebears present cases which document such harm and support this concern. The text of these articles documents how doctors of this earlier time clearly saw vaccination as a deliberate poisoning of the blood and questioned how it was possible that injecting potential toxins into the body could improve a patient's health. During the past century, medical research has demonstrated that the currently recommended vaccines are safe and effective. This does not mean that they never can cause harm. The real question is whether their probable benefits exceed their possible harms.
The concept of optimal health as the best treatment and prevention is at odds with the idea of injecting foreign substances into someone to ward off disease. No research has shown that naturopathic methods are more effective than vaccines for preventing the diseases for which vaccines are available.
The belief that vaccinations are safe and effective obtains only if one takes the public health view that the collateral damage for the technique is acceptable in light of its perceived benefit. The vaccines recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have been proven to cause much more good than harm.
The stakes for vaccine damage are so high that it eventually became extremely difficult in the United States to sue a medical practitioner or a vaccine manufacturer for damages sustained from a vaccine. Under the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act,. . . an individual's sole remedy for vaccine damage is through the "vaccine court" or the United States Court of Federal Claims. Vaccine court is an administrative proceeding overseen by the United States Department of Health and Human Services. In spite of the assertion that vaccines are safe, the vaccine court has awarded since its inception more than $3.2 billion in damages to Americans for certain childhood vaccines.

The Vaccine Injury Act, which now covers 12 vaccines, was passed to deal with an epidemic of lawsuits that threatened the continued availability of childhood vaccines nationwide. According to the CDC, from 2006 to 2017 over 3.4 billion doses of covered vaccines were distributed in the United States. For petitions filed in this time period, 6,253 petitions were adjudicated by the Court, and, of those 4,291 were compensated. This means for every 1 million doses of vaccine that were distributed, only one led to compensation.

In my own practice of nearly forty years, I have seen dozens of children who were "normal", healthy children, meeting all of their developmental milestones, with no health problems until immediately after a vaccination. The changes in their behavior ranged from mild to severe neurological impairment, including diagnoses (made by conventional physicians) from attention deficient disorder to autism. The fact that behavioral changes occur after a vaccine is administered does not mean that the vaccine caused them. To establish causation, it is necessary to compare children who receive a vaccine with similar children who do not. Large well-designed studies have found no link between vaccination and autism.
The doctors in these pages also point out that, despite the argument that vaccination was believed to greatly reduce or eradicate certain infectious diseases, much has been documented from their era to the present that suggests or proves otherwise. These undeniable outcomes are more likely due to better sanitation, hygiene, clean water supplies, and other public health measures, and not to the vaccinations themselves. Naturopathic doctors also recognize that one must go beyond the external environment and address the internal environment as well. Better nutrition, antibiotics and other treatments, have increased survival rates among the sick; less crowded living conditions have reduced disease transmission; and lower birth rates have decreased the number of susceptible household contacts. But statistical analyses clearly demonstrate the direct impact vaccines have had, even in modern times. It is also clear that if vaccinations were stopped, disease rates would increase greatly [4].
Naturopathic and homeopathic physicians as well as indigenous healers have long known that there are methods which confer such immunity without any risk whatsoever. If any such methods actually existed, the scientific community would eagerly embrace them.
Also referenced in these pages are the practices and fundamentals of the homeopathic school of medicine from which our predecessors understood that immunity could be developed through the use of medicines which mimic the disease symptoms or through the use of microbes administered orally in infinitesimal doses. These procedures are similar to vaccination, and are equally, if not more, effective and without any harm at all. Homeopathic products are not similar to vaccines. Vaccines stimulate production for antibodies that can be measured. So-called homeopathic "vaccines" do not produce any measurable response. They have not been proven effective or even tested to see whether they are effective. Homeopathic products claimed to provide immunity against infectious diseases cannot be legally marketed in the United States. The claim that homeopathic vaccines are more effective than standard vaccines is preposterous.

References

  1. Barrett S. Naturopathic opposition to immunization. Quackwatch, April 21, 2019.
  2. Czeranko S (editor). Vaccination and Naturopathic Medicine: In Their Own Words, NUNM Press, Portland, OR, 2015.
  3. Who we are. Natural Medicine Associates Web site, accessed April 17, 2019.
  4. Misconceptions about immunizations: "Diseases had already begun to disappear before vaccines were introduced, because of better hygiene and sanitation." World Health Organization Web site, accessed April 17, 2019.

This article was posted on April 21, 2019.

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