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If there were a contest for the most shamelessly anti-vaccination group of health care practitioners, the bastardized specialty known as “chiropractic pediatrics” would win hands down. Naturopaths are anti-vaxxers but, as far as I know, don’t shout it out it by featuring marquee figures of the anti-vaccination movement at their conferences. There are anti-vaxx physicians too, but they are spurned by their colleagues and they sometimes get disciplined.

Not chiropractic pediatrics! They crank it up to 11! As we’ve documented here on SBM, chiropractic pediatrics conferences regularly feature anti-vaccination royalty like Barbara Loe Fisher, grande dame of the anti-vaccination movement, Andrew Wakefield, the pediatric research fraudster, Del Bigtree, maker of the widely disparaged “documentary” VAXXED, and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who is so embarrassingly wrong on vaccines that he got called out by his own family in Politico.

This year is no different. In October, Kennedy will be a featured speaker at Genesis PedCon, (“The Pediatric and Family Conference of the Year!”), held at the Hilton in East Brunswick, NJ, advertised as being only “30 minutes from Manhattan.” (Maybe in the Batmobile.) Kennedy’s notorious anti-vaccination campaign has earned him a number of posts on SBM (e.g., here, here, and here) and over on Respectful Insolence (e.g., here, here, and here). He has, among his many outrageous attacks on science, compared “vaccine-induced autism” to the Holocaust and said that pediatric infectious diseases expert Paul Offit, MD, should be in jail.

In Kennedy’s fevered mind, there is a huge conspiracy afoot in which scientists, government and Pharma employees, and their minions, who must number in the hundreds, are secretly acting in concert to intentionally harm millions of children. The crux of it is nicely summed up by Slate‘s Laura Helmuth:

The short version of the vaccine conspiracy theory (if you are stuck on the phone with RFK Jr., you will be subjected to the long version) is that a vaccine preservative called thimerosal causes autism when injected into children. Government epidemiologists and other scientists, conspiring with the vaccine industry, have covered up data and lied about vaccine ingredients to hide this fact. Journalists are dupes of this powerful cabal that is intentionally poisoning children.

Of course, a roomful of chiropractors who believe in the phantom subluxation and fabricate its deleterious effects on health are obviously lacking in critical thinking skills and therefore the perfect audience for Kennedy.

Also speaking will be anti-vaccine “paleo” doctor Jack Wolfson, who, once asked if he would feel bad if a sick child with a medical exemption caught measles from his child and died, he replied:

I could live with myself easily. It’s an unfortunate thing that people die, but people die. And I’m not going to put my child at risk to save another child.

Wolfson also spoke at last year’s Genesis PedCon, as did none other than anti-vaxx propagandist Del Bigtree, who has himself trampled on the memory of the Holocaust by likening the horrific killing of millions of Jews and other groups persecuted by the Nazis to school vaccine mandates.

One of the conference’s sponsors is the National Vaccine Information Council, the vitriolic anti-vaccine misinformation machine founded by Barbara Loe Fisher, who has indulged in her own Nazi-themed hyperbole by calling doctors who administer vaccines are the moral equivalent of “the doctors at Nuremberg”. (Orac recently did a nice takedown of her latest rant.)

Genesis PedCon is being run by the irrepressible Teri and Stu Warner, both subluxation-based chiropractors and author of strategies on how to undermine parents’ faith in their child’s pediatrician. Sample:

When performing a skin temperature measurement, ask . . . “Did your pediatrician do this test.” Respond, “Interesting” then move on.

As Chirobase points out, skin-temperature measurement is an invalid diagnostic test used by chiropractors to find “subluxations” that they claim need treatment.

In 2008, the New Jersey Board of Chiropractic Examiners disciplined the Warners for billing parents and insurers multiple times for the same services, for which they paid several thousand dollars in penalties and costs. Stu’s agreement also required him to stop “engaging in unprofessional dialog with parents of minor patients that is intended to undermine the relationships they have with other health care providers”.

In other words, PedCon has picked the cream of the chiropractic crop.

In addition to anti-vaccination ideology and courses in “adjusting” (including Upper Cervical Technique) infants, children, and pregnant women, there will be a hefty helping of practice building, which will, according to Teri and Stu’s promotional video, allow attendees to position themselves as the “go-to kids’ health authority in your community.” And speaking of kids, bring yours! Let them play, again according to Teri and Stu, with “other unsubluxated kids”. There are up to 21 hours of continuing education credit “approved throughout North America”.

While we could spend several more paragraphs on PedCon, we must move on to other means of learning anti-vaccination ideology for chiropractors, but not before turning to one final claim from Teri and Stu’s promotional video, selected especially for my SBM colleagues Drs. Steve Novella and Harriet Hall. The Warners promise “the number one brain and nervous system chiropractor”, will be at PedCon, Ted Carrick. Drs. Novella and Hall (who was once called “bizarre, rude, and offensive” by Carrick) expertly shredded Carrick and his “chiropractic neurology” here, here, and here.

“Chiropractic pediatrics” CE courses

This brings us to “Pediatrics 115” a CE course offered by ChiroCredit, which says it’s mission is to “provide high quality, clinically relevant” and “accurate” programs “to maintain clinical excellence” and “meet state license requirements”.

ChiroCredit is approved as a CE provider by PACE (Providers of Approved Continuing Education), a service of the Federation of Chiropractic Licensing Boards, an organization of state chiropractic regulatory boards. PACE vets CE course providers and approves those that meet its standards. Some boards automatically accept PACE-approved courses; others do not.

According to PACE, its mission includes “protecting the public through advancements in chiropractic education”. PACE standards cover issues like facilities for CE courses, the allocation of credit hours and, as might be expected, the qualifications of instructors and the rigor of the course content. Thus,

The provider shall ensure that each instructor in its continuing education program is qualified to teach the subject matter assigned to him or her.

Interestingly, though, courses need not be science- or evidence-based:

Subject matter shall be evidence-based, authority-based or tradition-based and shall be credible, academically rigorous and presented in a balanced manner.

(Emphasis added.)

ChiroCredit is also a “strategic partner” with the University of Bridgeport’s College of Chiropractic, which offers CE via ChiroCredit. In Colorado, for example, Pediatrics 115 is “automatically accepted as facilitated by the University of Bridgeport, Health Sciences Postgraduate Education Department”. What standards, if any, Bridgeport requires for ChiroCredit’s courses is not revealed.

In short, Pediatrics 115 bears the imprimatur of both the Federation of Chiropractic Licensing Boards and an accredited chiropractic college.

The course content of Pediatrics 115, an on-demand video course listed in the PACE catalog of courses, is:

Examine the current allopathic approach to vaccinations, including recommended schedules

Assess potential side-effects seen in patients, both pediatric and adult, in your clinic daily

Uncover the pharmaceutical industrys [sic] interest in creating more vaccinations

Analyze political maneuvers behind many vaccination mandates

Explore varying philosophical viewpoints on vaccinations, including Religious beliefs, Ethical viewpoints, Schools desires, and alternative/healthier lifestyle approaches

Educate your patient on their choices for vaccination

Create alternative vaccination schedules

Discover ways to identify and treat the common side effects of vaccinated children

Identify useful Homeopathic Nosodes and Remedies proven to be effective alternatives to vaccinations

(Quotation reformatted for easier reading.)

Let’s unpack this and see how many anti-vaccination tropes we can find:

  • The presumed ubiquity of side effects (“seen in your practice daily”), real or imagined, and the implication that these side effects require treatment. [If they appear at all, most vaccine side effects are minor, go away in a few days, and do not require treatment. Side effects that do require treatment are not amenable to chiropractic care and are outside the scope of chiropractic practice.]
  • The implication that there are nefarious motives behind creation of new vaccines.
  • The assumption that “politics,” and not protection of public health, is behind vaccine mandates.
  • Promotion of the notion that there are effective alternatives to vaccination, such as “alternative/healthier lifestyle approaches” and homeopathic nosodes. [Neither is an evidence-based recommendation; homeopathic nosodes aren’t even scientifically plausible, much less effective.]
  • What appears to be an attempt to promote vaccine resistance in parents (“educate your patients on their choices”).
  • Teaching that “alternative” vaccination schedules are valid. [In fact, they are not evidence-based.]

The instructor for Pediatrics 115 is Robin Mayfield, a Texas chiropractor and “functional nutritionist” who offers pseudoscience-based alternative medicine standards like adrenal fatigue and heavy metal testing, candida and “leaky gut” treatment, detox, homeopathy, applied kinesiology, and a “medical intuitive.” I could not find any mention of education or training in pediatrics or infectious diseases on her website or any indication that she practices in those areas; indeed, her practice seems to focus on adult females.

Tropes aside, both the content of Pediatrics 115 and its approval by major chiropractic organizations serve as evidence of the appalling condition of chiropractic education and state regulation of the practice of chiropractic. The course is not only anti-vaccination, it is not evidence- or science-based (nor is it required to be, according to PACE) and I can find nothing to indicate that Mayfield is qualified to teach a course on pediatrics or infectious diseases. The subject matter of the course is obviously beyond the scope of chiropractic practice as well as beyond chiropractic education and training.

Another PACE-approved ChiroCredit course, also offered through Bridgeport, contains content curiously focused on the thoroughly debunked MMR-autism connection, the equally thoroughly debunked thimerosal-autism connection, and “vaccine injury:”

Describe the categories of autism and their symptoms

Comprehend the importance of the 1998 Wakefield paper in Lancet connecting autism to the MMR vaccine

Develop awareness of the vaccine injury court, thimersol [sic] and the vaccine autism link

Discuss vaccine exemptions and analyze chiropractic attitudes toward immunization

Apply strategies to manage autistic patients in your practice

(Quotation reformatted for easier reading.)

This course is taught by Brett Kinsler, DC, who, according to his LinkedIn profile, is no longer in chiropractic practice but has switched to healthcare IT. I could not find any evidence of his qualifications to teach a course on pediatrics, autism, or infectious diseases, the latter of which are beyond the scope of chiropractic practice.

In sum, chiropractors are vectors for vaccine-preventable diseases via indoctrination of patients and parents with their anti-vaccination ideology. As such, they must bear some responsibility for vaccine hesitancy and its attendant consequences. Chiropractic regulatory boards should make it clear that advising patients and parents on vaccination is outside of the chiropractic scope of practice, other than to direct them to their primary care physician (who should not be a chiropractor). The boards must stop granting CE credit for anti-vaccination courses and ensure that anti-vaccination ideology is not taught in chiropractic colleges. If the regulatory boards cannot be trusted with this most basic protection of public health, the states should strip them of their authority and do it for them.

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Posted by Jann Bellamy

Jann J. Bellamy is a Florida attorney and lives in Tallahassee. She is one of the founders and Board members of the Society for Science-Based Medicine (SfSBM) dedicated to providing accurate information about CAM and advocating for state and federal laws that incorporate a science-based standard for all health care practitioners. She tracks state and federal bills that would allow pseudoscience in health care for the SfSBM website.  Her posts are archived here.