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.
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. One chiropractor gave thousands of dollars to a Super PAC that hosted an anti-vaccine, pro-Donald Trump rally near the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
They have also been the leading force behind anti-vaccine events like the one in Wisconsin, where hundreds of chiropractors from across the U.S. shelled out $299 or more to attend. The AP found chiropractors were allowed to earn continuing education credits to maintain their licenses in at least 10 states.
Public health advocates are alarmed by the number of chiropractors who have hitched themselves to the anti-vaccine movement and used their public prominence and sheen of medical expertise to undermine the nation’s response to a COVID-19 pandemic that has killed more than 700,000 Americans.
“People trust them. They trust their authority, but they also feel like they’re a nice alternative to traditional medicine,” said Erica DeWald of Vaccinate Your Family, who tracks figures in the anti-vaccine movement. “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.”
The purveyors of vaccine misinformation represent a small but vocal minority of the nation’s 70,000 chiropractors, many of whom advocate for vaccines. In some places, chiropractors have helped organize vaccine clinics or been authorized to give COVID-19 shots.