Chapter 9: Chiropractors and Poliomyelitis
©1963, Samuel Homola, D.C.
The Public Health Service with the cooperation of the American Medical Association and the National Foundation sponsored an Advertising Council campaign, using all types of mass media to stress the importance of vaccination. This campaign began in the fall of 1957 and was intensified in the spring and early summer of 1958. Public support of the campaign was urged by President Eisenhower in a message issued on May 17.
— LEROY E. BURNEY, M.D., Surgeon General
United States Public Health Service
According to chiropractic literature, polio is one of those diseases that is supposedly best cared for by chiropractic treatment. There seems, in fact, to be more chiropractic literature dealing with the subject of poliomyelitis than with any other one specific condition. Now that we have a fair idea of what chiropractic is and what it attempts to do, we will dwell more in detail on what it contends to accomplish — in the treatment of disease — with one specific example.
As we shall see, many chiropractors actively combat the use of the Salk vaccine for polio prevention and, at the same time, recommend the chiropractic treatment both as a prevention and a cure. Needless to say, the chiropractic profession has been scathingly criticized, when noticed at all, for what most authorities consider to be thoroughly misleading claims. In spite of the fact, however, that much chiropractic advertising dwells upon the prevention and treatment of poliomyelitis, it seems that relatively few such cases actually seek chiropractic care; the reason being, probably, that when one’s child is obviously endangered by crippling paralysis the active opposition of the medical profession to chiropractic treatment in such conditions is sufficiently impressive to guide one from “taking a chance.”
A recent and typical example of the chiropractors’ opposition to polio vaccination (and vaccination of any type) and the often necessary mass immunization programs was found in an incident covered in an April 4, 1956, issue of the Denver Post (newspaper) of Denver, Colorado. It seems that when the Colorado State Board of Health appealed to churches throughout Colorado (by letters) to encourage their members to take the Salk vaccination before the onset of the coming polio season (as would be necessary to prevent the usual epidemic of polio), the Colorado chiropractors countered with a protest mailed to the same churches, which said, in part:
Your thoughtful consideration should be given to the fact that contamination of the human body through the injection of diseased animal cells must be abhorrent to the Creator who equipped us with cell life peculiarly our own, and is not miscible with that of animals.
The letters, from which this quotation was taken, signed by Dr. Louis O. Gearhart, Executive Secretary-Treasurer, of the Colorado Chiropractic Association, reflected “. . . the thinking, attitude, and policy of the members [of the Colorado Chiropractic Association].”  Dr. Roy Cleere, the State Health Director of Colorado, commented on the letters distributed by Colorado chiropractors as “. . . being written in the Dark Ages…. I can’t believe such letters would be supported by the Chiropractic Association.”
Much to the consternation of health authorities around the nation, the opposition of “drugless” practitioners to the progress of medical science has been responsible for the alienation of a considerable number of uninformed Americans from participation in recommended and often necessary group health and immunization programs. Laymen are often led to believe — by chiropractors and other “drugless” healers — that recommendations made by the nation’s health authorities, the United States Public Health Service, and the American Medical Association, as opposed to the beliefs of the chiropractor, are a “conspiracy aimed at destruction of basic American freedoms.”  Thus, by making spectacular and formidable charges, minority groups are often able to attract a great deal of attention and confuse the issues. Regardless of what chiropractors might have to say about the employment of mass immunization programs, I doubt whether public health officials would be impressed. It is actually quite inconceivable that chiropractors, uneducated in medicine, would attempt to deter mass health and education programs (such as the polio campaign supported by President Eisenhower in 1958) that might possibly save thousands of human lives. No matter what time might bring out about the use of the Salk vaccine (and other forms of inoculation), there are presently no chiropractors, to my knowledge, who are qualified to determine the efficacy of various medical preparations.
In spite of the intense campaign for vaccination against polio in 1957 and 1958, only a fraction of the nation’s population bothered to complete the series of shots necessary for complete immunization. According to reports released July 17, 1959, by Surgeon General Leroy E. Burney, nine out of ten of the new polio cases occurred among persons who had not had Salk vaccine shots. At that time, about 70 million of 170 million Americans had had one or more of the anti-polio shots. Interestingly enough, Russia, who has nothing to gain by acclaiming an American discovery, announced that the use of the Salk vaccine in that country had been highly successful. In America, however, where the vaccine was developed, and where considerable progress was being made in the development of a more effective oral dose of live polio virus (the vaccination is composed of killed polio virus), nature cults and other misguided groups revived anti-vaccination arguments that were much in vogue in the 16th century.
In the chiropractic treatment for polio, this advice is offered in a booklet (The Prevention of Poliomyelitis) published by the National Chiropractic Association:
There is much that can be done. Get the patient to bed, isolate him, begin the application of hot packs to the spine, if you understand their application. In any case, apply heat.
Remember, time is of the essence in these cases. The swollen action-cells will not stand up for long. Remember, also, that if it happens that the particular cells governing breathing — in the neck or those just inside the skull which control other vital functions — are affected, death may not be far away if action is not prompt. Bear in mind that the spinal tension must be reduced if any progress toward defeating the disease is to be made. The fatigue toxins must be dispersed. There must be careful and scientific adjustment.
Send for a doctor skilled in that method and waste no time. The terminal paralysis may now be avoided if you are wise and modern. You may save your own child from life-long misery if you teach him to avoid over-fatigue and act promptly if it should strike him down 
This brochure, written for the layman, is obviously full of promises and sensational dialogue. one wonders, however, how the “wise and modern” citizen could get up enough courage to take his stricken child to a chiropractor who, limited to the confines of his office, has no affiliation with accredited hospitals, and risk the possibility that the infection might be bulbar — thus losing precious time in reaching the life-giving confines of an “iron-lung” and proper nursing care.
According to chiropractic literature, on the other hand, death from bulbar polio can be prevented it “spinal tension” is immediately corrected by the chiropractor, Although we assume that the chiropractor’s method of removing “spinal tension” is a form of spinal manipulation, we are at a loss as to how he might attempt to alter diseased nerve cells “just inside the skull.” When we consider the claims found in chiropractic literature, along with information found in medical literature, concerning conditions for which medical science has admittedly not yet found a cure or prevention, it is easy to see why it might be difficult for the layman to select a form of treatment. If the Salk vaccine lives up to the expectations of many of its advocates, however, poliomyelitis might very well be removed from the checklist of the chiropractor.
In the treatment of such conditions as poliomyelitis, many chiropractors take credit for the body’s natural recovery — although in doing so they might endanger the lives of a smaller percent (attracted to chiropractic by such claims) that need strict nursing care and sometimes the most drastic procedures available to save or prolong life (such as tracheotomy, breathing aids, serums, and surgical methods of feeding those unable to swallow or care for themselves). Occasionally, surgical methods are employed, in severe cases, to prevent deformity of bone caused by continued muscular spasm (or loss of muscle power on one side of the body). In any event, it takes a large team of specialized practitioners to care for the seriously stricken polio victim.
Even the most blatant quack is assured of a high percentage of recovery in treating polio cases, for 60 percent of the patients who contract the disease eventually recover without residual weakness or paralysis. Therefore, it is the care of the 40 percent in the paralytic group who will not recover completely or at all that is most important. lt is this group that prevents chiropractic polio specialists from “curing” them all.
Chiropractic groups occasionally attempt mass educational programs in an effort to “inform the public” that the chiropractor has a treatment for such conditions as infantile paralysis, or Asian Flu. There seems to be no obvious justification for the statement that chiropractic has a cure for polio, other than the fact that such contentions fit well into the chiropractic theory. It is on the basis of this theory that chiropractic authors and students alike often claim effectiveness for their treatment method, even though many of them have not had an opportunity to treat many of the diseases named in their literature.
In reporting the effects of chiropractic treatment upon poliomyelitis, the pamphlet, The Present Day Doctor of Chiropractic, stated in 1956, the year after the Salk vaccine was made available to the public:
The Chiropractic Research Foundation reports successful treatment of both acute and chronic polio by chiropractic methods .
This implies, of course, that chiropractic treatment has a curative effect on both the course of the infection and the results of the infection. This report undoubtedly comes from a compilation of reports from practicing chiropractors, for there are presently no adequate chiropractic facilities for conducting research in infectious disease. Cases misdiagnosed as polio, combined with non-paralytic polio cases and those cases that make a natural recovery, no doubt give many practicing chiropractors a high though erroneous figure of “successful” treatment of polio. Without the benefit of spinal fluid examination, and other methods of early confirmation of polio, every case of “fever and sore throat or muscular tension” might be diagnosed as a potentially severe case of polio, the recovery of which, according to chiropractic literature, will depend upon “careful and scientific adjustment.”
Offering more specific figures on the chiropractors’ treatment of poliomyelitis, the pamphlet, The Truth About Chiropractic, states that:
Correction and treatment of both acute and chronic polio by chiropractic methods have been unusually successful. A national survey by Science Sidelights [published by the National Chiropractic Association] reveals startling results of chiropractic methods in treating polio cases. In 662 acute cases, complete recovery in 473 (71.5%). In 889 chronic cases, complete recovery in 257 (28.90%), marked improvement in 454 (51.1%)), slight or no improvement in 178 (20%)). This is a documented record which shows the polio benefits gained by chiropractic treatment 
Considering the chiropractors’ claims to have a successful treatment for polio, it is noticeable that the above figures show little improvement over figures obtained from other methods of treatment, most of which are not aimed at “curing” the disease but are simply designed to prevent deformity and disability. It seems likely that any improvement of the chiropractor’s figures over those compiled by hospitals (where a more positive diagnosis can be made) probably stems from the failure of many chiropractors to make a correct diagnosis in every case. While chiropractic literature offers an “effective” method of treating acute and chronic polio, medical literature, on the other hand, contending that no “cure” for polio has been found as yet, states that treatment will not determine the eventual result when damage from polio virus has taken place. For this reason, all efforts in medical care are aimed at prevention rather than cure.
Sometime around 1952, Kentucky chiropractors, in promoting chiropractic as a prophylaxis, collectively distributed leaflets to the citizens of Kentucky, which read, in part, as follows:
AVOID POLIO, FREE EXAMINATION AND PREVENTION CARE, children, ages 1-12 years. Infantile Paralysis, or Polio, as it is called, is an inflammation of the spinal cord and spinal nerves. By proper examination of the spine, doctors can tell whether a child is susceptible to Polio! Hundreds of children will be stricken with this dreaded disease this summer .
The leaflets went on to tell readers that chiropractors were willing to examine and give any child two weeks of free chiropractic care, which, they contended, would be sufficient to “prevent polio.” This was offered as a “public health service.” The State Health Department, however, disclaimed any affiliation with the chiropractors’ efforts. (In Kentucky, the chiropractors have their own examining and licensing board and do not employ physiotherapy.)
In New York, where chiropractors are presently unlicensed, another approach to polio prevention has been employed:
At the first sign of fever, sore throat or muscular tension BRING YOUR CHILD TO A CHIROPRACTOR: If you do, you can be sure of speedy and effective results. There will be no paralysis, no braces, no agonizing memories. If you don’t you will be responsible for the inability or negligence of others.
“This sort of advertising is at the best heartless and cruel,” commented one medical practitioner in a study of chiropractic activity. “There is not one ethical practitioner in the United States or elsewhere, nor is there one scientific body in all the world who would not lend their every effort and support to any system of healing which would do even one-half or even one-hundredth of what this advertisement claimed. Those who write such advertisements, to judge them liberally, must be extremely ignorant. To judge them otherwise, one would have to say that they were completely dishonest.” 
A recent issue of a chiropractic magazine called Healthways (1958), published for laymen, printed a story called “But the Polio Foundation Did Not Provide the Means.” The story gave the names and case histories of three March of Dimes poster girls who, the story went on to say, had been “condemned to life in a wheel chair” but who had recovered under chiropractic treatment. The article said, in part:
March of Dimes poster girls who have thrown away their crutches and braces following chiropractic therapy may not be a dime a dozen, yet, but there are enough of them to make the faces of some top hands in the National Polio Foundation redder than the nose of a famous reindeer.
The publicity men for the medically-sanctioned Foundation must break out in an icy sweat every time they are called upon to select a little polio victim with a winning smile and write their usual money-jerking lines around the highly questionable “fact” that she is condemned to life in a wheel chair .
This kind of chiropractic sensationalism infuriates the medical practitioner. Actually, as any qualified physician knows, the “poster girls” had already passed the acute damaging stage of polio and were in the after-stage in which natural recovery would take place, the degree of which would depend upon the amount of damage done to the central nervous system and the subsequent use of certain rehabilitation measures. After the initial infection, there is no treatment that will have any effect at all upon the actual damage done to the nervous tissue. Many uninformed polio victims attribute their eventual recovery to worthless treatment methods, thus leading them to falsely rely upon such treatment for other acutely stricken members of the family.
Those cases that are to recover without any residual paralysis, needing no rehabilitation, usually recover within three months after the onset of the infection. Although nerve cell recovery is usually complete within three months, in those cells that are only partially damaged, some cases might require almost two years before complete muscle recovery takes place — even longer if inadequate muscular treatment is given. Treatment is futile, however, as far as complete recovery goes, in those cases in which the nerve cell has been completely destroyed. In cases of prolonged paralysis, of the flaccid type as occurs following infection by polio virus, certain electrical examinations may reveal complete destruction of motor nerve cells (originating in the front portion of the spinal cord) supplying the paralyzed muscle. Most physicians will supply the stricken child with the necessary supporting braces soon after the onset of the paralysis so that rehabilitation can begin as soon as possible. Of the paralytic cases (about 40 percent of all those infected), only about 25 percent will suffer a severe, permanent disability. In this group the braces will become a permanent and necessary means of assistance, while the other 15 percent might be able to completely or partially discard their braces with passing time.
In any event, in the selection of “poster girls” for the annual March of Dimes drive (by publicity workers who are not necessarily physicians), I am sure that less thought is given to the possibility or impossibility of the subject’s future ability to walk than to the selection of a photogenic child with enough human appeal to stir the thoughts and emotions of a contributing public.
“We Walk Again”
Active in the chiropractic campaign to treat poliomyelitis, there is a chiropractic organization called “We Walk Again” that is apparently designed to fulfill functions similar to those of the well-known “March of Dimes” polio foundation (established by the late Franklin D. Roosevelt). In the October, 1958, issue of the Journal of the National Chiropractic Association, we find these reasons for the existence of the chiropractic “We Walk Again” polio foundation:
We Walk Again was established and rightly justifies its existence for the following reasons:
1) the need for a chiropractic charity. To our knowledge, no other existing charity specifies chiropractic;
2) the deplorable need for chiropractic hospitals;
3) the right of chiropractic patients to be lifted from the false stigma of cultism, which also grants the same right to the esteemed doctors of chiropractic;
4) the right of the near-million cripples to maximum recovery, found only in chiropractic, and the acute polio cases which will continue to need chiropractic care, in spite of optimism receiving such wide publicity.
In spite of all that is lacking with respect to chiropractic, as admitted in the excerpts above, efforts are being intensified, in chiropractic circles, to treat acute and chronic polio cases chiropractically. Regardless of how much confidence a chiropractic practitioner might have in his method of treatment, I still do not see how he could bring himself to accept the responsibility of treating acute polio cases without the necessary hospitals and facilities often employed in such cases. In addition, it would seem that at least one conscientious chiropractor, who sincerely believed chiropractic to be the only answer to polio and who, at the same time, realized the impracticability of handling such cases alone, would attempt to qualify medically and earn a position with more authority for the promotion of such a contention where it would do the most good. Values of service to humanity should not be confined because of disagreement with a “traditional enemy.” It seems very likely, however, that much of the chiropractor’s belief in his own treatment method might stem from an education that is inadequate (when compared with medical education). If this is the case then a chiropractic practitioner who earned a medical degree might very well abandon his original beliefs for a different approach. There are already many medical specialists in such fields as physical medicine (which employs spinal manipulation) who place definite limitations upon the values of spinal manipulation. While they concede that manipulation does indeed have considerable value, they continue to reject the unlimited approach of the chiropractic doctrine.
In describing the purpose of a chiropractic polio foundation, as opposed to existing medical foundations, the chiropractic journal from which we took the previous excerpts stated, in part:
A vital principle upon which We Walk Again was founded, and which seems to have missed recognition by the profession, is the factor of public opinion. Remember, public opinion is the most powerful force at our command, yet it is the most flexible. It can be swayed overnight. Until now, the minds of the public have been conditioned to think of only one avenue of healing. The tide is turning, make no mistake! To quote a popular phrase: “The Trend is to Chiropractic.” We must take every advantage of this flexibility of public opinion, to direct it forcefully, factually, and fearlessly, until the balance of its power favors and accepts chiropractic. . . .
Can you see the public relations value of these Group Plan successes? Like all other foundations, We Walk Again can make front-page news with these stories, where a profession cannot. It becomes “special” or “private” interest of the doctors who claim these successes. It is news when it comes from a foundation.
One more point in our program which is of paramount importance: our preambles. Many have asked, “Why is no mention made of chiropractic in our preamble?” . . . Because. . . . A great number of persons would “freeze” and cast us aside, because of past conditioning of minds, without knowledge. With no mention of chiropractic they are intrigued to know that a successful treatment exists, and become converts when they become aware of the facts….
Our preambles serve a dual purpose: 1) They set forth exactly what we stand for, our aims and purposes; and 2) they serve to create the “pressure group” of public opinion needed for legislation, etc. They are supplied with blank pages in petition style, for signatures of your patients and others believing in equality and justice and freedom of choice .
Here we have an excellent example of methods used to promote an activity on the force of public opinion and lay conception, regardless of opposition by medical science. Perhaps the most alarming point brought out in the quotation above is the fact that chiropractic promotional groups, in leaving out the word “chiropractic” in the preambles of their polio programs in order to attract patients and win “converts,” might lead many people to believe that they are applying for legitimate medical care when they are actually applying for highly controversial and medically-rejected chiropractic care. The underlying reason for this kind of approach is, according to the explanation above, that once the patient has been thoroughly exposed to chiropractic he will be “converted” to the chiropractic cause. In view of the fact that chiropractors do not have hospitals, medical reciprocity, or a recognized treatment for polio, a layman, who does not possess sufficient knowledge to judge the validity of chiropractic claims (claims that chiropractors seems to promote simply on the strength of opinion), can show little justification for his faith in chiropractic treatment as opposed to medical treatment. In any event, without the stamp of approval from educational, medical, and public health organizations, I do not believe that chiropractic “public relations” 24-hours-a-day could draw “flexible public opinion” away from orthodox medical care. With the development of more effective polio vaccines and better rehabilitation centers, it will become increasingly more difficult to convince a layman that the answer to polio is “found only in chiropractic.”
The enthusiasm of many chiropractors, in seeking the right to treat many serious diseases, probably stems, to a great degree, from the fact that, due to a lack of hospital and clinical training, they have an incomplete picture of the nature and the cause of human disease. By far, the majority of patients seeking care at chiropractic schools’ clinics complain primarily of mechanical and chronic conditions. The chiropractic student rarely sees a case of the more serious or infectious type of disease that chiropractic literature often claims can be treated effectively by spinal adjustments.
In discussing the chiropractic treatment of polio, we have provided an example that, according to the chiropractic doctrine, can apply to practically every disease process known to man — with regard to chiropractic treatment. In selecting a piece of literature, by chiropractic authority, to represent the basis for much of the chiropractor’s opposition to all medical inoculation programs — not just to the worldwide polio vaccination program now under way — I have chosen a booklet (distributed by the National Chiropractic Association) that was written as a supplement to the book, Rational Bacteriology, by C. W. Weiant and J. R. Verner. At this writing, Dr. Weiant is the only chiropractor with a Ph.D. degree teaching in the chiropractic schools approved by the National Chiropractic Association. (His degree is in anthropology.) When the expos_ on chiropractic appeared in Reader’s Digest in 1946, it was Dr. Weiant who penned a reply through the pages of a subsequent issue of that magazine. He is presently dean of the New York Institute of Chiropractic and is the author of a recent book, Medicine and Chiropractic.
In the supplementary booklet, “The Chiropractor Looks At Infection,” Drs. Weiant and Verner attempt to show that chiropractic is superior to medicine and inoculation in the treatment and prevention Of disease, that inoculation is damaging and without value. They state, in part:
Inoculators, both insect and human, must be combated by every means at our command. Serum prophylaxis and vaccination should be shunned, for reasons which will become apparent when we come to consider therapy. Beyond the scope of personal hygiene and chiropractic, there is no prophylaxis worthy of the name, except that furnished by the sanitary engineer. Medicine has nothing to offer that can withstand careful scrutiny. . . .
The comparison unquestionably gives the verdict to chiropractic as the superior method. We call upon educated people everywhere to aid in diffusing the information here presented, and to assert themselves as rational beings with a public conscience, wherever the issue of compulsory immunization looms to threaten the life and liberty of fellow human beings .
Essentially, the case for the chiropractic treatment of infectious disease is based upon the well-known fact that lowered resistance predisposes to disease — which is nothing new. The contention of many chiropractors, however, that body resistance can be raised or maintained sufficiently to cure or prevent disease simply by manipulating the spinal column, is quite another story. There is undoubtedly much left to be desired in many of today’s methods of treating and preventing disease, and perusal of any professional medical journal will reveal the qualms and problems besetting medical practitioners; but these problems cannot be solved by chiropractors who offer spinal manipulation as a solution. It is a job for those same medical practitioners (quoted by chiropractors) who were qualified to point out the good and bad points in medical practice. It would be ludicrous to assume that the chiropractor was better able to envisage the faults of medical practice than the medical researcher himself.
Many chiropractors publicize the occasional failures and disappointments found in the attempts of medical science to rid us of a terrible disease. If someone dies from inoculation under extenuating circumstances, a chiropractor may proclaim, with support from chiropractic authorities: “Is there, then, any advantage to be derived from chiropractic? Assuredly there is, for, in the first place, chiropractic never harms; inoculations always do.”  To strengthen this argument, medical practitioners might be quoted to the effect that “more people die from smallpox vaccine than from the disease itself.” On the surface, this is a very alarming statement; what it really means, however, is that the smallpox vaccine, while preventing the occurrence of disease and death in millions, occasionally causes death in an isolated case. Since death from smallpox vaccine is a rare occurrence, it is easy to see the value of compulsory vaccination in preventing the death of millions.
In a March, 1959, issue of the Journal of the National Chiropractic Association, a chiropractic article entitled “Has the Test Tube Fight Against Polio Failed?” stated, in part, that:
The test tube fight against polio has failed . . . the death rate has increased among the children who have been vaccinated…. There is no vaccine against fatigue or a traumatic lesion in the anterior cord and motor cells…. In the mild, and especially in the more acute, chiropractic is supreme. Adjustments of the entire spine will break up the cord congestion, if given within the three days of grace given by Nature. Chiropractic aids nature.
The fatigue lesion of acute polio can be caused by other factors, such as trauma from falls, cord concussion, and different vaccines, such as whooping cough and smallpox vaccines. The latter can cause vaccinosyphilis in the pure blood of children. Acute polio will take place with paralysis on the same side the vaccination is given; that is, in cases of vaccino-poliomyelitis .
Rather than take the Salk vaccine, the article advises: “Chiropractic adjustments should be given of the entire spine the first three days of acute polio. Adjustments will start the circulation of all the fluids of the spinal cord. Goad all zero nerves, and the normal nerves to the paralyzed muscles. The late Dr. Leo Spears originated the term goading. I always used the term reflex adjusting. I understand the reflex technique has been copyrighted.”
One prominent chiropractic polio clinic (Dunn Polio Clinic) offers a “Five Day Cure” for polio if the patient begins to receive treatment within 72 hours after the onset of infection .
We should remember that some medical authorities have “observed that severe permanent paralysis occurred in 90 percent of patients who persisted in their usual physical activities during the first two days of preparalytic symptoms,” and that “mild paralyses persisted in only 15 percent of patients who were put to bed immediately when symptoms appeared.”  Thus, the first 24 hours of the infection may well determine the degree and amount of destruction in the nervous system. During the polio season, children with symptoms of polio should be put to bed immediately, be examined by a physician, and be kept in bed for seven to ten days as a margin of safety.
It is interesting to note that the author of the anti-Salk-vaccine article we have quoted from claims that “vaccino-syphilis” can occur following vaccination for smallpox. This is a very old argument that was employed by the opponents of vaccination during the earlier days of the fight against smallpox. At one time, before Jenner introduced vaccination, immunity to smallpox was sometimes acquired by a minute inoculation of pus from the sore of another individual who had the disease. With this method, there was, perhaps, a danger of transmitting syphilis directly from the tissues of an infected individual to the person being inoculated. In addition, although the inoculated person had only a mild case of smallpox (leading to immunity), other persons, if exposed to the infection of the inoculated person through the usual mode of transmission (the nasal and salivary secretions), could contract an ordinary case of smallpox. With the introduction of vaccination by Jenner, however, immunity against the disease could be acquired safely and without complications by inoculating the individual with virus taken from cows infected with vaccinia (“cowpox”). The human subject, thus vaccinated, acquired a mild case of cowpox, consisting of only one sore at the site of inoculation, and recovered with an immunity to smallpox. Unlike the old method of inoculation, whereby pus was taken from the lesions of persons infected with smallpox, the infection caused by cowpox was not contagious. Notwithstanding, anti-medical groups, composed largely of religious factions, formed a society of anti-vaccinationists the same year Jenner began his active fight against smallpox. The wording of the opposition of these anti-vaccination societies was usually religious. “Smallpox is a visitation from God and originates in man,” they argued, “but cow pox is produced by presumptuous, impious men. The former Heaven ordained, the latter is perhaps a daring and profane violation of our holy order.”
Others who engaged in the fight against vaccination for smallpox claimed that “bovine syphilis” was transmitted to the patient by the vaccine. It has been demonstrated, however, that calves, the source of the vaccine, could not be infected with syphilis. Regardless, the arguments of the “anti-vaccination societies” have remained to this day. Even Napoleon had his troops vaccinated when Jenner demonstrated the effectiveness of the measure against the spread of smallpox in 1798, yet objections to the practice have been extended into the 20th century by the creeds of various cults.
Although vaccination to prevent smallpox is quite effective, the disease will reappear when this measure of prevention is relaxed. In 1947, for example, several cases of smallpox cropped up in New York in what appeared to be the beginning of a severe epidemic. Rapid and overnight vaccination of the entire city, however, quenched the contagion and averted what might have been an unprecedented 20th-century disaster. No doubt many “non-believers” had a change of heart regarding vaccination when they were confronted with the ancient terrors of a smallpox epidemic. It is easy to voice a dissenting opinion concerning a method of disease prevention when one is not familiar with the horrors of the disease in question. Smallpox itself is virtually a disease of the past. In 1957, there was only one case of the disease reported in the United States (Wisconsin), although the case did not fulfill the generally accepted criteria for a diagnosis of smallpox.
Giving credit to Edward Jenner for such an effective and safe method of preventing the disfiguring and often fatal disease, Thomas Jefferson’s note to Jenner in 1806 is as applicable today as it was then. “You have erased from the calendar of human afflictions one of its greatest,” he wrote. “Yours is the comfortable reflection that mankind can never forget that you have lived; future nations will know by history only that the loathsome smallpox has existed, and by you has been extirpated.”
It is of passing interest to note that Benjamin Franklin referred to the use of inoculation in the prevention of smallpox about 30 years before Jenner presented the world with a safer method of using the measure. it seems that, following the death of Franklin’s son from smallpox, anti-inoculation groups seized upon the opportunity to spread rumors that his son had died from smallpox contracted from inoculation, and that inoculation, not the disease, was the killer. Although the old method of inoculation — taking pus from the sore of an infected individual — was accompanied with considerable danger, it nevertheless prevented smallpox in the inoculated individual more often than it caused it. Franklin, an adroit and conscientious person, realized this and was compelled to make a public statement contrary to circulating rumors. He explained that his four-year-old son had not been inoculated and that he had intended to have such done as soon as the child had regained sufficient resistance following recovery from a bad case of “flux” (probably dysentery). For the benefit of posterity, Franklin wrote in his autobiography:
In 1763 1 lost one of my sons, a fine boy of four years old, by smallpox, taken in the common way. I long regretted him bitterly and Still regret that I had not given it to him by inoculation. This I mention for the sake of parents who omit that operation on the supposition that they should never forgive themselves if a child died under it, my example showing that the regret may be the same either way, and therefore that the safer should be chosen.
Today, 200 years later, thoroughly safe and effective measures for preventing smallpox and other diseases continue to experience opposition (in a few minority groups) formed by the philosophy of l8thcentury radicals. One should not assume, of course, that the effectiveness of one procedure in the prevention or treatment of a particular disease automatically guarantees the success of a similar procedure with another disease. Nor should one assume, as do many indoctrinated individuals and groups, that failure or mishap in one procedure should nullify any value found in all such procedures. Science must evaluate each and every measure in itself, according to the best knowledge available, and, as Franklin suggested, choose the safer course — or what appears to be the safer course.
Some of the arguments used by many of today’s chiropractors who protest the use of vaccination probably came from slogans of anti-medical organizations that were organized from time to time by individuals as a means of making a living in earlier days. One such organization, the “American Medical Liberty League,” organized in 1918, distributed anti-vaccination literature prepared by Albert Abrams and George Starr White, both of whom were notorious quack medical physicians at that time. We have discussed the activities of these two practitioners elsewhere. “Vaccino-syphilis,” which many present-day chiropractors maintain still occurs, originated in the claims of Albert Abrams, which were quoted and distributed in the pamphlets of the American Medical Liberty League. One such pamphlet, entitled “Medical Health Officers Syphilizing the Nation,” claimed that all vaccine virus conveyed the reaction of congenital syphilis and that “even the vaccine scars show its contamination.” This pamphlet quoted Albert Abrams, “A.M., LL.D., M.D.,” as its authority for this charge. [The AMA regarded Abrams as “the dean of gadget quacks.]
Another leaflet, entitled “Know the Facts About Vaccination,” printed alleged statistics and testimony that were supposedly taken from Dr. George Starr White’s “Lecture Course to Physicians.”
Thus, the activities and propaganda of rabble-rousers and quacks of many years ago still exert influence over chiropractors and other groups who, by nature of their doctrines, are not inclined or qualified to see through some of the most gross falsehoods. Many of the arguments and slogans adopted by sectarian organizations, though incorrect, are never invalidated under the tenets of cultism, since they necessarily represent expressions of defense. It would indeed be difficult to give serious consideration to the claims of a practitioner today who continued to express belief in such humbug as “vaccino-syphilis.” It is even harder to believe that a group of practitioners outside the practice of medicine would attempt to dispute the work of thousands of qualified men working in hospitals and laboratories all over the world, and then further attempt to direct matters of life and death by dictating from an armchair, with nothing more to go on than hearsay and news media. I do not, of course, mean to imply that all methods of treatment not approved by medical science have no value, but, obviously, society must be firm in insisting that those who do promote a treatment for disease do so through scientific channels, either by qualifying for the authority to promulgate new theories or by subordinating their theories to the scrutiny of scientific analysis for confirmation or rejection. Under this procedure it is less likely that an obvious falsehood would be erroneously labeled as fact.
In seeking additional opinion on the previously quoted chiropractic anti-polio-vaccination material, I clipped the article in its entirety (“Has the Test Tube Fight Against Polio Failed?”) and mailed it to the United States Public Health Service for their comment. A reply enclosed literature written by Leroy E. Burney, U. S. Surgeon General, which stated, in part:
During the 3-1/2 years it has been in use [the Salk vaccine], the effectiveness rate of 60 to 90 percent has been consistently maintained. Nor is there any evidence that properly vaccinated persons are losing their immunity and becoming more susceptible to polio .
In 1954, the year before the Salk vaccine became available for public use, there were 38,476 cases of polio in the United States. In 1955 there were 28,985 cases of polio; in 1956 there were 15,140 cases; in 1957, 5,485 cases; and in 1961 there were only 1,312 cases. Strangely enough, poliomyelitis seems to be a disease of civilization that, before the advent of the Salk vaccine, had gotten increasingly severe with the passing years. In 1938, for example, there were only 1,705 cases of polio in the United States. The number progressively increased, however, until, in 1952, there were 57,879 cases .
The fact that epidemic-type diseases often rise and fall in severity for no known reason, even to the point of disappearing, makes it very difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of a method of prevention simply by comparing figures of previous years. As one writer put it, “When the tide is receding from the beach it is easy to have the illusion that one can empty the ocean by removing water with a pail.”  In the case of polio, however, it seems that an effective method of prevention has been demonstrated — by controlled laboratory experiments — during an era of increasing polio frequency. (Some authorities believe that improved sanitation has been responsible for increasingly severe polio epidemics — that is, by removing the virus from the environment at a time when natural exposure to it would result in immunity. By inoculating the individual with weak or dead samples of the virus, the body may then build immunity to the more virulent polio virus.)
A reply from the U. S. Public Health Service, regarding inquiry of the chiropractors’ status in the treatment of polio, stated as follows:
In regard to chiropractic, the Public Affairs Committee in 1953 published a 28-page pamphlet by Kathleen Cassidy Doyle entitled Science vs Chiropractic. Identifiable in libraries as Public Affairs Pamphlets No. 191, and available for 25¢ a copy from Public Affairs Pamphlets, 22 East 38th Street, New York 16, New York, this article has been widely acclaimed by health officials. Public Health Service officials know of no scientific evidence that chiropractic methods are effective in the treatment of disease. They recommend treatment of illness by qualified doctors of medicine .
This statement out of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare of the United States Government is, to say the least, significant and revealing. As indicated in the quotation above, the chiropractor is not yet recognized as a physician qualified to treat any disease, much less poliomyelitis. The failure of chiropractic in general to place reasonable limitations upon the scope of its practice — according to existing standards — has made it extremely difficult for a conscientious chiropractic practitioner to draw attention to specific values found in his practice.
- 1. Spears Sanigram. Spears Chiropractic Sanitarium and Hospital, Denver, Colorado, Number 39, July, 1959.
- 2. Prevention of poliomyelitis. National Chiropractic Association, Webster City, Iowa, undated.
- 3. Anderson, D. The Present Day Doctor of Chiropractic. Public Affairs Institute, Washington, D. C., 1956.
- 4. The Truth About Chiropractic. Pamphlet, National Chiropractic Association, Webster City, Iowa, undated.
- 5. Boyd CE. The Cult of Chiropractic. Louisiana State Medical Society, 1953.
- 6. But the Polio Foundation did not provide the means. Healthways Magazine, National Chiropractic Association, Webster City, Iowa, 1958.
- 7. Young LM. An open letter to the entire chiropractic profession. Journal of the National Chiropractic Association. October, 1958.
- 8. Weiant CW, Verner JR. The Chiropractor Looks at Infection. National Chiropractic Association, Copyright 1942-1959.
- 9. Frame FD. Has the test tube fight against polio failed? Journal of the National Chiropractic Association, March, 1959.
- 10. Kapella M. Polio’s greatest ally. Healthways. Webster City, Iowa, April, 1959.
- 11. Merck Manual, 8th Edition. Merck & Company, Rahway, New Jersey, 1950.
- 12. Burney L. Report to the Secretaryof Health, Education, and Welfare on the 1958 Poliomyelitis Season. Surgeon General, Public Health Service, Washington, D. C., October, 1958.
- 13. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Public Health Service, Washington 25, D. C., October 29, 1958.
- 14. Dubos RJ. Mirage of Health. Harper & Brothers, New York, 1959.
- 15. United States Public Health Service, Washington D. C. Personal Correspondence, March 16, 1959.