Canada moves on homeopathic vaccines

Health Canada is cracking down on the sale of so-called homeopathic vaccines that are falsely promoted by some naturopaths and homeopaths as safer and more effective than traditional vaccines.

The Toronto-based Globe and Mail reports that the department has altered the document that outlines how homeopathic vaccines should be used, saying they must now contain the following warning: “This product is not intended to be an alternative to vaccination.”

Homeopathic vaccines, also known as nosodes, are made from infected saliva, faeces or other material. The substance is mixed with alcohol and diluted until it is harmless, according to the homeopathic and naturopathic practitioners who sell the products. They say nosodes produce an immune response and that research shows it protects as well, if not better, than traditional vaccines.

Health Canada has approved about 150 nosodes for sale in Canada. Although they have never been approved as alternatives to vaccines, Health Canada doesn’t seem to have stopped anyone from promoting them in this fashion. Websites of numerous naturopathic and homeopathic practitioners in Canada have long touted the benefits of nosodes. Previously, the only guidance Health Canada gave about nosodes was that they should be used on the advice of a health-care practitioner.

In an email statement, Health Canada said it decided to add a warning to nosode labels after hearing from health care professionals concerned the products were “being used and promoted off-label as a substitution for vaccination”. The department has also received advertising complaints over the marketing of nosodes as “natural” alternative vaccines. All companies that sell nosodes have received warning letters that they must comply with the new regulations by March 2014.

But after an outbreak of measles in Canada earlier this year, the British Homeopathic Assocation was forced to issue a statement acknowledging that traditional vaccines are the only way to reduce transmission of illness.