Could Germany’s obsession with homeopathy explain the low vaccination rate?

Why is the vaccination rate in Germany so low? With just 71% of people fully vaccinated, the country is 10 points behind Spain and nearly 20 points behind Portugal. A lot of people wonder what’s going on with German-speaking Central Europe.

One of the possible culprits of “vaccine skepticism”, as argued by public broadcaster ZDF, is called “alternative medicine”. Unscientific treatments, especially homeopathy, are particularly popular among Germans, Austrians and Swiss.

Homeopathy involves taking a substance and distilling it in water until there is not a single molecule of the original substance left. In other words, “globuli” are nothing more than sugar pills.

People say these sugar pills work. And they do, sort of, but only because of the placebo effect. Through the complexities of the human mind, any the supposed treatment has some effect.

Imagine a fraudster who claims to produce homeopathic solutions but actually uses tap water. No one, neither a scientist nor a homeopath, could distinguish a real product from a fake. And the fakes would work just as well. Decades of double-blind studies have established this.

Yet people who believe in homeopathy learn not to believe scientific evidence. It is not surprising that 62% of them, according to a study, were opposed to vaccines. Why not try Ivermectin and Hydroxychloroquine instead? To hell with studies!

You would think insurance companies in Germany would trust science. Yet most of them will pay for homeopathic treatments, one way or another. The problem is not just the 20 million euros a year that is supposed to fund healthcare and is instead spent on snake oil. The problem is, policyholders are encouraged to believe in magic.

All German politicians capitulate to the sleight of hand lobby. Jens Spahn, the former Minister of Health, wanted insurance to continue paying for homeopathy. Robert Habeck, the new Minister of the Economy, moderated a “compromise” within the Green Party so that the money continues to flow. Even the new Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach, who criticized the Greens not so long ago for this “joke”, suddenly fell silent.

Medical hoax has a long tradition in Germany, where Heilpraktiker or “healing practitioners” are allowed to offer medical services even if they have no medical training. the law dates from 1939, which is no coincidence: the main Nazis pushed homeopathy as an alternative to the “Jew” [i.e. scientific] Medication. As a researcher describe for her, alternative medicine is a “relic of the Nazis which endangers public health”. By the way, even today some right-wing activists are calling vaccination campaigns “fascist.” But the the real nazis were anti-vaccines.

It doesn’t have to be that way. In Austria, for example, only doctors and psychotherapists are allowed to provide medical services. Why should it be any different? Without a license, I cannot sell my plumbing services. And you really wouldn’t want me to do pseudo-shamanic rituals to unclog your toilet.

For more than a century, German society has tolerated this esoteric minority, just as a racist uncle is ignored on Weihnachten. If people take sugar pills instead of drugs, we were told, at least they weren’t harming anyone. But in the midst of a pandemic, we learn that if millions of people learn to be wary of medical science, it hurts us all.

There is so much to criticize about drug companies, especially how their patents prevent life-saving drugs from reaching the people who need them. But “alternative medicine” is not an alternative to Big Pharma. Snake oil sellers criticize greedy drugstores, but their snake oil never seems to be cheap. It’s quite a racket for squeeze money of desperate people.

People are rightly wary of a for-profit health care system. The solution is to bring all health care – laboratories, factories and hospitals – under democratic control. Health care shouldn’t be an industry. It should be a fundamental right. We need to get capitalism out of the clinics. And if we did, fewer people would reject medicine and trust magic beans.