I applaud the author of the article “Health Canada licenses homeopathic vaccines” [BCMJ 2013;55:201-202] for drawing attention to a subject that generally resides in the kitchens of physician researchers and the afternoon poster sessions of academic conferences. As published by both WHO and Canada’s own Public Health Agency of Canada, population levels of child vaccination are staggeringly low.
We live in a country with, arguably, some of the best health care service delivery in the world. Not to mention the fact that medicare in this country has been an untouchable political subject since its inception (kudos to Tommy Douglas) and is part of what makes us Canadian. We have university research programs (not perfect, but successfully funded) as well as local, provincial, and national public health departments.
Why then are we not doing more, not about the existence of homeopathic medicine, but about the lack of legitimate information on homeopathic products in this country? It is not okay that opting against vaccinating your children is now part and parcel with taking echinacea, the use of cloth diapers, and strictly limiting children’s television viewing hours. These decisions are not the same. Echinacea may lack evidence of efficacy but likely does no harm. Cloth diapers, used properly, are likely quite good for the environment. Limiting television viewing likely increases social interaction and fosters the development of an active lifestyle. Not receiving proper vaccines on time is dangerous, and the parents are left with the smoking gun as the child is much too young to decide for him- or herself.
People need to be informed that highly dilute solutions may do no harm, but replacing vaccines developed after decades of evidence-based research does do harm. It is not right that the voice of Jenny McCarthy speaks as loudly as that of the government of a G8 country. Once herd immunity levels are low enough to incite widespread concern it will be too late. We must speak out now and must speak bluntly.
—Jonathan Gravel, MSc