Complementary and Alternative Medicine Club invites speaker from National Health Freedom Action.
Max Brown, Editor-in-Chief
Luke Gentle, Web Editor
Jerri Johnson, president of National Health Freedom Action, spoke at Coon Rapids on Tuesday on the issues of vaccine safety and the rights of alternative medicine practitioners. Johnson’s talk was hosted by the Complementary and Alternative Medicine Club. Anoka Ramsey biology professor and club advisor Joan McKearnan were also in attendance and offered her viewpoints during the group discussion.
Johnson’s focus was on the risks of vaccination. Johnson claims that vaccines, particularly the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine, put recipients at risk for neurological damage. Johnson’s stance is largely based on her work in the Somali community of the Twin Cities, where a recent measles outbreak has been blamed on members of the Somali community choosing not to vaccinate their children.
Johnson believes that their fears were justified, claiming to have personally worked with many Somali families whose children were neurologically impaired shortly after receiving the MMR vaccine. Johnson blames trace ingredients, such as mercury and aluminum, in vaccines as a possible cause.
McKearnan claims that these trace ingredients are not found in the right quantity or chemical composition to pose a realistic threat to patients.
Another point of disagreement was the frequent reference to the 1998 Wakefield Study in Johnson’s arguments. The study, originally published by British gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield, attempted to establish a link between autism in children and the MMR vaccine.
The paper was withdrawn from the journal it was originally published in, Lancet, in 2010 after it was revealed that proper scientific research steps were not followed. Wakefield’s medical license was revoked when it was discovered that he had falsified data and received funds from the lawyers of anti-vaccine parties.
Johnson claims that the Wakefield Study’s findings are legitimate, and Wakefield was discredited due to special interests attempting to slander him. McKearnan maintains that he was discredited due to fraud.
Johnson also addressed the burden imposed by current medicinal practice laws on practitioners of alternative medicine.
“There’s a medical practice statute that regulates medical doctor and it says that you can’t practice medicine unless you’ve gone to medical school and passed the boards and everything. Then it defines it defines the practice of medicine as offers or undertakes to prevent, diagnose, treat, emolliate in any way by any means methods instrumentality or device any illness or disease… As a result, all of these kinds of therapies were blatantly illegal because they were the practice of medicine.”
Most states currently define practicing medicine as attempting to diagnose or treat illness or injury and require anyone partaking in these activities to have a license, which has caused some alternative medicine practitioners legal trouble. The Board of National Health Freedom has lobbied in the past to change medicinal laws to give alternative medicine practitioners broader rights to practice.
In response to this, McKearnan claims that “there should be some licensing so that not just any snake oil salesman can come down the line and say, ‘I can cure you of whatever you have'”.
One thing both parties agreed on was that a mixture of western and alternative medicine is ideal for living a healthy life.
“I like to have access to conventional method(s)… if I break an arm or if I had a stroke, I’d go to the hospital. But if I have chronic kind of illness like if I had allergies or depression or hormonal imbalances or asthma then I would like to choose to see holistic practitioners that work in a very natural, gentle ways to restore my body to balance,” Johnson stated.
McKearnan similarly stated, “I do believe that holistic medicine has its place in medicinal practicing. Studies have shown a lot of mind over matter can be significant in the healing process and holistic medicine can help with that.”