B.C. chiropractors voted overwhelmingly this week for their professional regulator to “take a stand” against a promised COVID-19 shot mandate, bringing a long-running conflict over vaccination back into the spotlight.
At the annual general meeting of the College of Chiropractors of B.C. on Wednesday, 78 per cent of those in attendance voted in favour of a resolution to “maintain the right to medical freedom of choice” for chiropractors.
The resolution’s author, Mark Foullong of Kelowna, told the meeting it would be “unlawful and unconstitutional” for the college to mandate COVID-19 vaccines, claiming they are not proven to be safe or effective.
Vaccines are expected to be made a requirement for licensing of all regulated health professionals in B.C., but that’s not a decision that was made by the college. Instead, it’s been promised in the form of an order from Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
College registrar Michelle Da Roza said the board hasn’t had a chance to consider the resolutions passed at Wednesday’s meeting, but stressed that they are not binding.
“The board has not yet been requested or required to implement or enforce a vaccine mandate. As such, it cannot comment on what its role might be in relation to such a mandate, assuming there is one,” she wrote in an email to CBC.
The health ministry says an exact date for the mandate has yet to be determined.
Vaccination has been a heated issue for B.C. chiropractors since well before the pandemic began. Because of their lack of training in infectious disease treatment and prevention, they are specifically prohibited from providing advice on vaccination in B.C.
However, there have been issues in the past with college board members posting anti-vaccine materials online — a problem that led to the resignation of the board’s vice-chair in 2018 after CBC reported on an anti-vaccine video he’d created.
‘Infringements on our personal freedoms’
During this week’s meeting, Foullong and two other chiropractors who spoke up against vaccine mandates described them as discriminatory and a violation of informed consent.
“The current narrative has failed to prove and justify their infringements on our personal freedoms,” Cory Hewko of Vernon said.
Those chiropractors also suggested that previous infection with the novel coronavirus offers better protection against COVID-19 than vaccination does, which is a matter of considerable scientific debate.
They did not mention the much higher risk of death or long-term disability that comes with the disease, or the body of evidence that suggests vaccination offers greater protection against reinfection with the virus for people who’ve already been sick.
At Wednesday’s meeting, the only chiropractor who spoke up to dispute the claims of the anti-mandate faction was Michael Maxwell of Victoria, who said his colleagues were misrepresenting the science on vaccines and making false statements.
“It’s troubling to me that we would be reporting on science that we don’t have clear evidence of,” he said, pointing out that chiropractors do not have the expertise to evaluate vaccine research.
The vocal segment of the profession opposed to vaccine mandates is receiving international support and funding from groups like the Chiropractic Defense Council, an American non-profit created “to defend the rights of chiropractors,” according to the organization’s website.
In his most recent video on the situation in Canada, the non-profit’s executive director Bharon Hoag says he is focused on B.C., which he describes as home to a “malignant college” that has displayed “tyrannical behaviour.”
He notes that a B.C. lawyer has been hired to draft a “notice of liability” to college board members, expressing opposition to vaccine mandates.
The lawyer Hoag named has not responded to requests for comment.
Other debates resurface at AGM
Wednesday’s meeting touched on some other ongoing debates that have split the B.C. chiropractic world and resulted in two extraordinary general meetings this year.
Some of the key issues include the routine and repeated use of X-rays, which was recently limited by the college, and concerns about the motivations of college board members.
Another successful resolution called for the creation of an independent arbitration procedure to settle disputes between chiropractors and members of the board.
Just last month, Da Roza, the college registrar, was scolded by the Health Professions Review Board for her handling of complaints about the websites of two board members.
In both cases, Da Roza dismissed the complaints without forwarding them to the college’s inquiry committee for investigation, a decision the review board described as troubling and unreasonable.
The college was ordered to conduct fresh investigations into both complaints.