Chiropractors promoting anti-vaccination views despite rules


In August 2013, the Chiropractic Board of Australia said it would crack down on practitioners who promoted anti-vaccination beliefs.

Chiropractors’ waiting rooms across the country have become recruiting grounds for the anti-vaccination cause.

The Chiropractic Board of Australia has vowed for years to take action against practitioners who advise their patients not to vaccinate their children, but on Thursday it said it “has no role in limiting practitioners’ freedom of speech”.

In August 2013, the board said it would clamp down on practitioners who promoted anti-vaccination beliefs, and ordered them to remove anti-vaccination material from waiting rooms.

Well Adjusted Babies, the 2005 book with a controversial chapter on vaccinations.Well Adjusted Babies, the 2005 book with a controversial chapter on vaccinations. Photo: Facebook

But according to posts in the secret Facebook group Vaccine Free Australia – uncovered by Peter Tierney, who runs the pro-vaccination blog Reasonable Hank – chiropractors around the country have been flouting these rules by promoting the 2005 book Well Adjusted Babies to patients.

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The book, billed as a “holistic” guide to parenting, is penned by celebrity chiropractor Jennifer Barham-Floreani, who co-runs the Vitality allied health group in Middle Park, and is also a member of the Vaccine Free Australia group on Facebook.

Her book contains a chapter on vaccinations, which links vaccines to illnesses including multiple sclerosis, cancer, leukaemia, mad cow disease, autism and allergies.

Celebrity chiropractor Jennifer Barham-Floreani's 2005 book Well Adjusted Babies links vaccines to illnesses including cancer, mad cow disease and autism.Celebrity chiropractor Jennifer Barham-Floreani’s 2005 book Well Adjusted Babies links vaccines to illnesses including cancer, mad cow disease and autism. Photo: Picture: Facebook

Dr Barham-Floreani observes that asbestos, thalidomide and cigarettes were once considered safe, and asks: “Are our children now the innocent ‘guinea pigs’?”

Dozens of women have taken to the private Vaccine Free Australia Facebook group to praise the book, with several saying they discovered the book in their chiropractor’s waiting room. Others said their chiropractor either gave them the book when they were pregnant, or had recommended it to them.

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A Tasmanian woman wrote: “Saw this in my Chiro’s office… very good read! Apparently the Chiro’s got ‘in trouble’ by their association recently for having anti-vax literature in their office waiting rooms and have been advised to remove it… but this book is discreet, love it!”

A Melbourne woman wrote: “Love that book! Saw it in my chiro’s waiting room and I then bought it.”

Melbourne orthopaedic surgeon John Cunningham treats many patients with spinal disorders who have previously been treated by chiropractors.

Although he has a particular interest in chiropractics, it is the anti-vaccination campaigns run by some chiropractors that particularly infuriate him.

“I stress that it’s not all chiropractors, but there is a core group who believe that with manipulation of the spine you don’t need vaccinations. It is blatant rubbish. It is just silly.”

Dr Barham-Floreani’s teachings on vaccinations, he said, “directly fly in the face of what the professional standards say she should be doing”.

A spokeswoman for the Chiropractic Board of Australia said the body required practitioners to provide “balanced, non-biased and evidence-informed information to patients to help them make informed health decisions”.

The board’s code of conduct stresses that: “Current evidence indicates that preventative measures such as vaccination are a cost and clinically effective public health procedure for certain viral and microbial diseases.

The spokeswoman said: “The board has no role in limiting practitioners’ freedom of speech, but holds registered chiropractors to account against the professional standards it sets.”

The board has issued repeated reminders to chiropractors of the need to ensure their practice is evidence-based, but has not issued Dr Barham-Floreani with any official reprimands for her anti-vaccination work.

In 2013, then-board chairman Dr Phillip Donato, OAM, said the “vast majority” of Australia’s 4600 chiropractors worked in the best interests of their patients.

“However, the board takes a very strong view of any practitioner who makes unsubstantiated claims about treatment which is not supported within an evidence-based context.”

The spokeswoman said anyone with a concern about a registered chiropractor could contact the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency on 1300 419 495.

Fairfax contacted Dr Barham-Floreani’s spokeswoman, but Dr Barham-Floreani was not available for comment.

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