Posted in Opinions

Anti-vax is dangerous, dishonest

By Ian Bushfield

Nineteen children in the B.C. interior contracted whooping cough in February, and just recently another 14 people in Vancouver were diagnosed with measles. Both of these diseases had been nearly wiped from the developed world by modern medicine and vaccinations; however, almost none of these people had been properly vaccinated.

This negligence can be explained by a growing anti-science sentiment among practitioners of so-called complementary and alternative medicines. This movement is fed by superstition and conspiratorial beliefs. I have little respect for supposedly harmless beliefs in naturopathy since children are getting unnecessarily sick and in some cases dying.

Despite some legitimate complaints about the unscrupulous behaviour of many pharmaceutical companies, the basic scientific fact remains that modern medicine and vaccinations work. You can thank modern medicine for life spans past 40, child mortality rates below 20 per cent, and many more advances. Our government is not out to poison us; vaccines are tested and drugs are regulated for a reason.

This backlash tends to be due to ignorance. For example, one pseudoscience specialist in the whooping cough outbreak claimed that vaccines contain “muck.”

Her argument is basically that it is okay not to vaccinate children from deadly diseases that we know exist because modern medicine involves spooky chemicals. I am not sure where on the periodic table muck is or from what molecule it is derived, but I will take my chances with it over whooping cough, cholera, tuberculosis, and any number of other diseases that we have essentially defeated through the use of vaccines.

Many of these naturopathic “doctors” further subscribe to homeopathy — the idea that diluting a toxic substance until you just have water will make it more effective in curing the disease that it would normally cause in full dosage. For example, if you got bit by a rattle snake; the homeopath would bring out a vial of water that represents the dilution of snake venom.

The water you drink is supposed to have a memory that recalls having snake venom in it and will therefore purify your body.

Never mind that homeopathy has never been shown to be more than a placebo effect or that most mixtures are so diluted as to not contain a single molecule of the active ingredient; the question is, why would you waste your money on something that shows no efficacy?

Now consider the hypocrisy of the natural medicine movement. They claim that their potions of herbs and supplements are on par or better than evidenced-based medicines. Further, natural medicine is supposedly more pure than what the supposedly evil pharmaceutical companies are selling.

Yet when the government introduces modest legislation to regulate alternative medicines, to ensure that they live up to the claims they make, Big-Natura gets up in arms and claims that government agents are going to break into your house if you give your children ginseng. If their drugs do what they say they do, they ought to have nothing to fear from rules that protect consumers from crooked practices.

It is worth remembering though, that nothing spells profit like sugar pills and snake oil. It is no surprise then that major pharmaceutical companies have already moved into the under-regulated naturopathy market, looking to score a quick dollar off the hippies who try to boycott them.

Modern, science-based medicine brought us out of the dark ages. To make ignorant assertions that witchcraft and sorcery can take us forward borders on the absurd. If there were actual evidence supporting many of the claims being made, doctors would have no quarrel with prescribing homeopathy, acupuncture, and Reiki; however, real doctors are not in the business of giving false hope.

When evidence supports an alternative medicine, it’s just called medicine.