Intended for healthcare professionals

Education And Debate

Concerns about immunisation

BMJ 2000; 320 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.320.7229.240 (Published 22 January 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;320:240

Re: Vaccines - cause celebre or bete noire?

Sir,

I thought I had been very careful in my letter NOT to actually state that
these organisations are opposed outright to vaccination, or that they
support it unquestioningly; what I said is they do not support it. I would
contend that there could be a large difference between not supporting
something and opposing it. Is it safe to conclude that because I do not
support Bradford City, that I am opposed to them? The problem is more or
less as I stated in my letter, that homeopaths are uncomfortable about
vaccination in general. Some are more uncomfortable than others are. Some
oppose it strongly, while others accept it. Most are sceptical of its
benefits while being cognisant of its possible dangers. I think that is a
fair account of the matter. At no point did I use the word 'formal'. We
are in danger of splitting hairs here.

If Mr Dean's aim is to point out a factual inaccuracy, then it is
probably a flawed attempt, as it assumes that I have stated that this
issue is straightforward. It isn't; it is very blurred. It also assumes
that these professional bodies have tight governing control over, or
reflect the general opinions of, homeopaths in the field. They don't
always; their members are at liberty to form their own views on such
matters. Homeopaths are only loosely answerable to these professional
bodies on doctrinal matters. And on such emotive and divisive issues as
vaccination, they are accountable to no-one but their own consciences.
What therefore is the point Mr Dean is trying to make?

However, I willingly apologise if I was guilty of including any
factual error in my letter. I must also thank this writer for raising an
interesting new point, which I had not seen before, about the relationship
between a controlling body and the views and beliefs of those it claims to
represent. I also thank Mr Dean for inspiring me to convey, in more detail
than before, the extent of anti-vaccinationism within homeopathy today.

Whether a specific organisation supports, does not support, or
opposes the vaccination technique, what I said in my letter still applies:
homeopaths are generally uncomfortable with and ambivalent towards
vaccination. They regard it as an unwanted and integral element of
allopathic medicine, which they never seek to promote. Many believe it is
toxic, suppressive and can cause damage. If Mr Dean had read the other
letters eBMJ has published, especially several by John Heptonstall, he
would have apprehended a plethora of evidence, from within holistic
medicine generally, of people who are opposed to vaccination or who do not
support it. Moreover, for a whole range of different reasons.

The Society of Homeopaths certainly used to issue a leaflet on this
subject. While not outrightly opposing vaccination, it did suggest that
parents should seek the widest possible advice about it. Why did they do
that, if they wholeheartedly support vaccination? They clearly did it
because they recognise a possible danger about the subject, and it
reflects the fact that throughout their own history homeopaths have more
or less consistently opposed it as a damaging, suppressive technique, that
generates ill-health. Thus, it is no more correct to say that all
homeopaths are opposed to vaccination than it is to say they all support
it. The vast majority is ambivalent or sceptical.

As for the HMA, which Mr Dean has specifically referred to, I am
advised by Simon King, a homeopath practising in Norwich, and a Council
member of that body, that no such policy on vaccination has so far been
devised, but, and I
quote his private email to me [of 2 Feb 2000]:

'They just don't advocate allopathy per se, as they are promoting a
system, which is opposite to it. Vaccination is allopathy, so they won't
promote it. That's not the same as damning it. I think what they say is
people have a choice, a choice based on having more than allopathy to
choose from, that allopathy doesn't have the monopoly on effective health
care.'

As for the ICM Register, that used to be controlled by Sheilagh
Creasy, a very firm Kentian homeopath, who now mainly teaches in the USA.
She is widely regarded as one of the foremost classical homeopaths in the
world, and she is renowned for her firm views on the dangers of allopathic
suppression, of using single dose of high potency remedy, chosen along
Kentian lines, and for her strong views against all forms of drugging and
vaccination, which she believes frequently constitute root causes of much
modern pathology. Suppression of disease, by strong drugs and
inappropriate techniques like vaccination, into the deeper, interior
layers of the organism, is, of course, a fundamental axiom of the Kentian
approach. Such views are fairly widespread within homeopathy today [see
quotes below by Vithoulkas].

Moreover, it is not really the controlling bodies that formulate,
reinforce or control the beliefs of homeopaths, as this writer seems to
suggest in his letter, but the major figures and the major writers within
the movement, who
much more deeply impress their beliefs upon the movement as a whole. Thus,
the idea that these professional bodies have an official view about
vaccination, which is enforced upon the mass of homeopaths, is misleading.
Whatever 'formal views' they may espouse in documents, homeopaths can take
or leave them with impunity. Their views and beliefs are determined much
more by the main figures, who dominate the movement, than by the
controlling bodies. This apparently removes the central supporting pillar
of this writer 's main complaint.

Of even greater significance to our discussion, are the actual stated
views of some leading modern homeopaths. To illustrate this point, let us
consult the writings of the foremost homeopath in the modern world, and
the leading light of the entire movement, George Vithoulkas. He has this
to say about vaccination:

'Vaccination is cited by many as being an example of the allopathic
use of
the Law of Similars. Superficially, this would appear to be
true...however,
vaccinations are administered to entire populations without any
consideration of individuality. Each individual will have a unique degree
of
susceptibility to any vaccine, yet it is administered without regard to
the
uniqueness of the individual. Therefore, the concept of vaccination is
almost the precise opposite of the principles of homeopathy; it is
indiscriminate administration of a foreign substance to everyone,
regardless
of state of health or individual sensitivity.' [Vithoulkas, George, 1980,
The Science of Homeopathy, Grove Press, New York, p.113]

'...in homeopathy any chronic condition which can be traced to a
vaccination
is called a 'vaccinosis'. Dr. J Compton Burnett presents his very detailed
cases which demonstrate clearly that vaccinations can have profoundly
disturbing and lasting influences on the health of susceptible
individuals...the fact that vaccinosis is indeed due to vaccination and
not
merely coincidence is seen by the fact that many cases are dramatically
benefited by administration of a potentized preparation of the particular
vaccine used.' [Vithoulkas, pp.115-6]

'Such cases can be quoted in great numbers by any homeopath who takes
the
time to elucidate the complete history of the patient. Thus even something
as popular and widespread as vaccination - one of the so-called major
'successes' of modern medicine - can be a large-scale factor in the
degenerating health of our populations.' [Ibid. p.116]

'How does a person acquire a predisposition to illness...? As we
know,
powerful acute ailments, allopathic drugs, and vaccinations are major
factors...' [Ibid. pp.120-1]

'It is natural to inquire into the evolution of the present
pathological
state of the patient...what eliciting causes can be considered as factors
in
producing the symptoms? In particular, the evolution of the pathological
state of the patient should focus on the following major influences:

1. Any mental or emotional shocks....

2. Any major illness...

3. Any treatments given throughout the life of the patient...

4. Vaccinations, which have been administered and the patient's reactions
to
them.' [Ibid. pp.175-6]

I think these quotes demonstrate, that leading, modern homeopaths -
whose
written works are regarded as influential texts upon the attitudes of the
movement - are just as resolutely opposed to vaccination, on therapeutic
grounds, as many of their forebears. In addition, this stands in stark
contrast to the UK Faculty of Homeopathy's stated position on this
subject,
and that claimed by Mr Dean on behalf of the main professional bodies in
the
UK. I therefore stand by my original remarks.

On balance, therefore, vaccination appears to be something of a
Russian
roulette game, in which it cannot be predicted with much certainty whether
your own precious child will be damaged by any kind of injection or not.
It
is an emotional matter, of course, for any parent, but these are the kind
of
factors, which people try - desperately and probably unsuccessfully - to
evaluate, whenever they have to consider this very difficult problem.
Moreover, in that sense, I think homeopaths, and others, are perfectly
entitled to be uncertain and sceptical over this issue.

Regards

Peter Morrell

Competing interests: No competing interests

05 February 2000
Peter Morrell
Hon Research Associate, History of Medicine
Staffordshire University