Australia has also not been immune to the trend, with a chiropractor in Melbourne suspended for spraying anti-wax claims.
»People trust them. They trust their authority, but they also feel they are a good alternative to traditional medicine, ”said Erica DeWald of Vaccinate Your Family, who tracks numbers in the anti-vaccine movement. “Ordinary medicine will refer people to a chiropractor without knowing that they may be exposed to misinformation. You go because your back hurts and then suddenly you do not want to vaccinate your children. ”
The providers of vaccine misinformation represent a small but loud minority of the country’s 70,000 chiropractors, many of whom are in favor of vaccines. In some places, chiropractors have helped organize vaccine clinics or been allowed to give COVID-19 shots.
And chiropractic is not the only healthcare profession whose members have been linked to misinformation about COVID-19: Some doctors have spread dangerous untruths about vaccines, a problem that the national group representing state doctors warned in July, that doctors who push vaccine disinformation can have their licenses revoked.
But the pandemic provided a new platform for chiropractors who had aroused anti-vaccine misinformation long before COVID-19 arrived, driven by 19th-century interpretations of chiropractic that drugs disrupt the body’s natural flow of energy.
Chiropractic was founded in 1895 by DD Palmer, a “magnetic healer” who claimed that most diseases were the result of misaligned vertebrae. Its early leaders rejected the use of surgery and medicine as well as the idea that bacteria cause disease. Instead, they believed that the body has an innate intelligence and the power to heal itself if it functions properly, and that chiropractic can help it do so.
This led many to reject vaccines – even though vaccines are not within their scope. Instead, they treat conditions through back and musculoskeletal adjustments as well as exercise and nutrition counseling. A 2015 Gallup survey found that an estimated 33.5 million adults had seen a chiropractor in the previous 12 months.
Even before the pandemic, many chiropractors became active in the so-called “health freedom” movement and advocated in state laws from Massachusetts to South Dakota to allow more people to skip vaccinations.
Since 2019, the AP found that chiropractors and chiropractor-supported groups have worked to influence vaccine-related legislation and policies in at least 24 states. For example, an organization started by a chiropractor and a co-owner of a chiropractic business takes the honor of torpedoing a New Jersey bill in early 2020 that would have ended the state’s religious exemption for vaccines.
Then the pandemic hit and created new opportunities for profit.
The first complaint the Federal Trade Commission filed under the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act was in April against a Missouri chiropractor. It claims that he erroneously announced that “vaccines do not stop the spread of the virus,” but that supplements he sold for $ 24 per day. Bottle plus $ 9.95 shipping, did. He says he did not advertise his supplements that way and is fighting the charges in court.
Nebraska chiropractor Ben Tapper landed on “Disinformation Dozen,” a list compiled by the Center for Countering Digital Hate, which says he is among the small group of people responsible for nearly two-thirds of anti-vaccine content online. Tapper went viral with posts downplaying the dangers of COVID-19, criticizing “Big Pharma” and spawning fears of the vaccine.
Tapper said he has been called a “quack” and lost patients, and that Venmo and PayPal seized his accounts. In his view, the public is told that they need a vaccine to be healthy, which he does not think is true. He said vaccines have no place in what he calls the “wellness and prevention paradigm.”
“We are trying to defend our rights,” Tapper told the AP when asked why so many chiropractors are involved in the anti-vaccine movement. “We defend our scope.”
Another chiropractor who has frequently appeared on the right-wing show run by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to sell supplements was also a donor to an organization behind the January 6 vaccine demonstration.
It is unclear how widespread the anti-vaccine mood is in the ranks of chiropractors, but there are some clues.
Stephen Perle, a professor at the University of Bridgeport School of Chiropractic, examined thousands of chiropractors across the United States. He said his and other studies show that less than 20 percent of chiropractors have “unorthodox” attitudes, such as resistance to vaccines. Perle called that group an “extraordinary vocal, committed minority.”
The AP could not find a national number of vaccination rates among chiropractors, but Oregon tracks vaccine intake among all licensed health care providers, and the numbers show that chiropractors and their assistants are far less likely to be vaccinated – and far less than the general public.
Only 58 percent of licensed chiropractors and 55 percent of Oregon’s chiropractor assistants were vaccinated on Sept. 5. That compares with 96 percent of dentists, 92 percent of physicians, 83 pewr percent of registered nurses, 68 percent of naturopathic physicians, and 75 percent of the general public.