“At a time when the surgeon general says misinformation has become an urgent threat to public health, an investigation by The Associated Press found a vocal and influential group of chiropractors has been capitalizing on the pandemic by sowing fear and mistrust of vaccines,” the AP reports. “They have touted their supplements as alternatives to vaccines, written doctor’s notes to allow patients to get out of mask and immunization mandates, donated large sums of money to anti-vaccine organizations and sold anti-vaccine ads on Facebook and Instagram, the AP discovered.”
In many rural communities a chiropractor is one of the few specialists, and they may appeal to people who are wary of traditional doctors. It should be noted that many of the nation’s 70,000 chiropractors endorse vaccination, but “the pandemic gave a new platform to a faction of chiropractors who had been stirring up anti-vaccine misinformation long before Covid-19 arrived,” AP reports. Since 2019, “chiropractors and chiropractor-backed groups have worked to influence vaccine-related legislation and policy in at least 24 states.”
It’s unclear how many chiropractors are anti-vaccine, but a recent survey pegs it around 20%. And though there are no nationwide numbers on vaccination rates among chiropractors, Oregon tracks vaccination rates among all health-care providers. As of September 5, only 58% of chiropractors in the state were vaccinated, compared to 92% of medical doctors and 75% of the general public, AP reports.
“People trust them. They trust their authority, but they also feel like they’re a nice alternative to traditional medicine,” Erica DeWald of Vaccinate Your Family, which tracks figures in the anti-vaccine movement, told AP. “Mainstream medicine will refer people out to a chiropractor not knowing that they could be exposed to misinformation. You go because your back hurts, and then suddenly you don’t want to vaccinate your kids.”