measles: the quackery that is homeopathic “vaccination”

A couple of days ago, a friend sent me a link to a health-related FB page that had published a post from a homeopathist, offering homeopathic “vaccination”¹ against measles (using something called a “Morbillinum nosode” at a “potency” of 200C, which I’ll explain shortly). I followed the link, left a comment asking for evidence that this actually, you know, works, & was happy to see that a number of other science-based commenters also turned up.

The result was that the post disappeared, which in my opinion is a Good Thing & I’m going to explain why (though I was a little miffed that I hadn’t thought to take a screenshot). However, and unfortunately, it’s easy to find people offering this “treatment” in New Zealand. For example, this page explains what that Morbillinum nosode² is:

the remedy made from the discharge from a person with measles.

Let that sink in a little. Measles is not a benign childhood disease; goodness knows there have been enough stories about infants (e.g. here) & adults (e.g. here) requiring ICU admission during our current outbreak that people should know this. And yet, homeopaths seem comfortable with using secretions from someone with active measles infect, secretions that could well be infectious, in producing their “remedy” for the disease?! (Or, in the case of the original, disappeared, post, claiming that it’s a “vaccine”.)

Happily, though, a properly-prepared homeopathic nosode³ is highly unlikely to spread the disease. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb & say it’s not possible. Why? Well, that’s where the 200C part comes in.

Homeopathy relies on serial dilutions of whatever the chosen ‘active’ principle is; let’s call it X; the more dilute your preparation, the higher its supposed effectiveness (aka potency). The capital C stands for a 1 in 100 dilution. So 200C means a 1 in 100 dilution, repeated 200 times. By the end of that, you’d have no molecules of X in your final solution – so at least you couldn’t transmit any nasties to your patient.

However, for a dose of 200C Morbillinum, there’d also be nothing to provoke an immune system response, and so no prospect of protection against an actual measles infection. In other words, to offer a homeopathic “vaccination” against measles, especially at a time when we are experiencing a significant measles outbreak, is at best highly irresponsible. The author of this brief article in the NZ Medical Journal feels even more strongly, noting as well that there is no evidence that homeopathy is an effective alternative** to vaccination. None.


¹ It’s not just measles. This link to a US site offers a complete alternative “vaccination” schedule for presumably vaccine-averse parents. It includes tetanus, for which there is no prospect of being protected by herd immunity. I was just gobsmacked to see this.

²It’s also possible to get a smallpox nosode (though why you’d need one, with smallpox extinct in the wild, is anyone’s guess). Seriously. Or, if you’d rather, homeopathic plutonium (which Orac treated to his customary respectful insolence).

³ Apparently, nosodes are used more often in veterinary homeopathy. Which also makes me sad.

** This would be fairly straightforward to test, using development of antibodies as the endpoint. Alt-med purveyors often argue that they can’t afford to pay for the actual well-designed research that would demonstrate the effectiveness of their products. At which point, let’s just note that the world’s biggest producer of homeopathic nostrums, Boiron, had a revenue of €600 million in 2018. There should be enough in the kitty to fund the necessary research.

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