An Alternative to Vaccines? Nosodes and Their Effect on Vaccine Debates in English Canada
Cameron, Derek H
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In the 1980s, vaccine hesitance created a market for vaccine alternatives in Canada. Challenges to medical authority, especially from feminists and environmentalists, meant that parents’ fears of vaccine damage were taken more seriously than might otherwise have been the case. These challenges helped to create a market for vaccine alternatives, resulting in the revival of homeopathic vaccines, also known as nosodes in 1985, in English Canada. I argue that nosodes were not immediately accepted by the Canadian homeopathic community. Rather, it took a significant marketing and research campaign by the French homeopathic company, Boiron, for Canadian homeopaths to consider nosodes to be a legitimate homeopathic therapy. I argue that the Boiron-sponsored research, which showed nosodes to be side-effect free and effective, had significant flaws and mainly acted as a marketing tool to present nosodes in a positive light to skeptical homeopaths. I consider the ways in which Boiron used its financial resources to shape the research and education available to Canadian homeopaths. Following their campaign, supporters of nosodes reimagined the risks and benefits of vaccination by comparing vaccines to supposedly risk-free nosodes. I argue that nosodes allowed for a reworking of anti-vaccine discourse, fundamentally altering what had been framed as a choice between the risks of vaccination and the risks of vaccine preventable disease. Despite evidence of their efficacy being flawed, advocates presented nosodes as an alternative to vaccines and a middle ground between anti-vaccination and vaccination. While a campaign from 2013-2015 tried to expose nosodes as ineffective, I argue that the campaign was unsuccessful, but raised Canadians’ awareness of nosodes, further complicating the history of vaccines and alternative medicine in Canada.
DegreeMaster of Arts (M.A.)
CommitteeKeyworth, George; Biggs, Lesley; Napper, Scott; Hoy, Ben
Copyright DateApril 2020
History of Vaccines