When I first heard of Pox Parties, I found it amazing, and frightening, that people actually fear vaccines so much that they will deliberately expose their children to infectious disease to avoid them. Such parents take their children to play with others who have active infections, or even mail infectious material to each other to expose their children (which is illegal as well as stupid).
It is true that some children exposed in this manner will develop a protective immunity. Some will also have to endure an active infection, which for those of us old enough to have experience can dimly recall is very unpleasant. And a small umber of these children will experience serious, even life-threatening or permanently disabling injury from these infections. Given the well-demonstrated and remarkable safety and effectiveness of vaccines, there is simply no excuse other than ignorance and irrational fear for this behavior.
I was somewhat surprised to see recently that some veterinarians are apparently recommending a version of the Pox Party for dogs in order to avoid vaccinating for parvovirus and canine distemper, two common and very serious infectious diseases. I was not, however, surprised that these veterinarians were homeopaths.
An article by Dr. Will Falconer (about whose bizarre and dangerous view of medicine I have written before here, here, and here) and posted on the Facebook page for the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy, shares the “exciting” news about how to avoid evil vaccines for parvo and distemper.
Imagine avoiding risky vaccinations while getting very strong immune protection against parvo and distemper, the two potentially deadly diseases of puppies.
You know vaccinations are grossly over provided in our broken system of veterinary medicine. The pushing of vaccinations by Dr. WhiteCoat throughout your animal’s life doesn’t add to her immunity…And you know that vaccines are harmful. Chronic disease often follows vaccination, even a single vaccination.
Despite his assumption that his readers share his understanding about the devastating consequences of vaccination, Dr. Falconer is actually completely deluded on this point. While vaccines have risks, like any medical therapy with any effects at all, they also have benefits, and the two must be balanced against one another. Vaccination has greatly reduced, and in some cases completely eliminated infectious diseases that afflicted humanity and caused enormous suffering and death for millennia, and the risks have proven to be surprisingly few in light of the enormous benefits.
Vaccine protocols are changing in veterinary medicine in recognition that these therapies provide even greater protection than once thought and do not need to be given as often as they traditionally have been. However, no reasonable veterinarian, and no legitimate scientific evidence, supports these kinds of hysterical claims about the dangers of vaccination or the idea that they can or should be entirely avoided.
The alternative Dr. Falconer and his colleagues propose to vaccination for parvovirus and distemper is further illustration of a truly astounding level of delusion and ignorance of history:
A lecture on parvo by Dr. Todd Cooney lit us up, as he showed us statistics from his homeopathic practice in Indiana that the vaccinated pups had less chance of surviving parvo than those not vaccinated for that disease!
Parvo vaccine itself was immune suppressive.
Parvovirus was ubiquitous in the environment.
Animals treated homeopathically when sick with parvo had far better survival rates than those treated with the usual drugs.
Distemper was prevented by taking pups to a known wildlife area where raccoons with distemper lived.
Dr. Rosemary Manziano learned of the outbreak of canine distemper in raccoons in her area through the CDC. She boldly suggested to her puppy owners over a period of 11 years that they visit a pond known to be a hangout for these raccoons. After a brief period of sniffing around the bushes and maybe drinking the water, the pups were brought home.
This was repeated a week later, and on the third week, the good doctor would test for distemper titers, the evidence of immune response. Lo and behold, these pups had fantastic titers indicating strong immunity! And, in case you’re wondering, not one puppy ever got sick in the least. This happened in well over a hundred pups and was, as Dr. Manziano called it, “fool proof immunization.”
After eleven years, it stopped working. She assumed that the disease in raccoons had run its course, natural resistance having been gained by their population.
Dr. Manziano suggested that her new pup owners who wanted natural immunization take short, five minute visits to the most popular dog parks. Those parks with the highest dog traffic were recommended.
This kind of irresponsible advice is not supported by scientific evidence, but then that sort of evidence is of no concern to people who practice the mystical discipline of homeopathy anyway. The reality is that these veterinarians appear to be discouraging their clients from making use of safe and effective therapies that have dramatically reduced the risk of life-threatening illness in dogs and instead recommend exposing dogs to these very serious diseases in the bizarre belief that they are more likely to develop protective immunity without active infection or harm. This belief requires a dramatic ignorance of the entire field of immunology and the history of vaccination or simply a complete rejection of science in favor of the infallible wisdom of uncontrolled personal experience.
In either case, it seems indefensible and unethical. It is a sad comment on the state of the veterinary profession that these doctors are allowed to promote such practices while maintaining the appearance of legitimacy, and the exclusive right to practice veterinary medicine, that comes with being licensed veterinarians. Their behavior not only places their patients at unnecessary risk but undermines the legitimacy of the veterinary profession and the confidence of the public.