When is a vaccine not a vaccine? When it's a homeopathic concoction. And the Australian authorities made that clear by fining "Homeopathy Plus!" director Fran Sheffield and her business $138,000. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission took her to federal court on the grounds that she misled consumers by promoting her homeopathic whooping cough "vaccine". The court has ordered her to desist from making claims about her supposed whooping cough vaccine for five years.
Homeopathy is a system of alternative health care created in 1796 by Samuel Hahnemann. He posited that a substance that causes disease symptoms in healthy people could, when given in tiny amounts, cure similar symptoms in sick people. He can be forgiven for his ideas, considering the state of medicine in the late 18th century, but since modern science has found no evidence that his system works, it's hard to forgive people who sell such 'snake oils' today.
In 2009 the Australian federal Therapeutic Goods Administration asked Ms Sheffield to retract the misinformation on her website about whooping cough vaccines. She apparently ignored that request until the federal court ruled against her, although her site still inveighs against modern vaccines just not the whooping cough one.
Whooping cough can be deadly especially when it affects infants too young to be immunized. Thus it's important that others be vaccinated to sustain herd immunity, which is the only way such vulnerable populations can be protected. The misinformation about vaccines which Sheffield and her compatriots post can discourage vaccine use by believers, thus increasing the risk of contagious diseases such as measles, mumps and rubella among others.
It's unfortunate that it took 6 years for the website to remove its lies about whooping cough vaccines, and it is unfortunate that it continues to post inaccurate information about others. Dr. Ken Harvey of the School of Public Health at La Trobe University commented about the website:
"In my view, serious misleading and deceptive medical information needs correction and I believe that enforcing the publication of a retraction on the home page of the offending website for a number of months is important. Meanwhile, as of today the Homeopathic Plus website continues to advocate homeopathic immunisation with an unbalanced selection of the literature and no acknowledgment of contrary mainstream medical views."
As we have said before, homeopathy has no place in an effective medical armamentarium, and the FDA should come down hard on purveyors of this bizarre "treatment."