Chiropractors are receiving government-mandated training by anti-vaccination physicians who believe diet and ''keeping the spine in line'' will prevent deadly diseases such as polio.
Chiropractors can make up the entirety of their annual 12½ hours of formal medical education - which they must undertake in order to continue practising - from known anti-vaccination proponents.
The head of the Australian Medical Association, Steve Hambleton, said the Chiropractic Board of Australia is failing in its duty to protect the public by allowing the courses.
One such course, which counts towards eight hours of education, is run by US anti-vaccination author Tim O'Shea.
Dr O'Shea teaches that vaccines are based on ''junk science'', and said in a radio interview last year that vaccine-preventable diseases should be treated by ''naturally boosting the immune system''.
''You do that by diet, by lifestyle, by chiropractic adjustments, by keeping the spine in line, by natural methods, not by giving these fictitious imaginary man-made altered pathogens and pretending like they trigger an immunity,'' he said.
Another course is run by a US group that advises parents ''fear is an outmoded response to childhood infectious disease'', and they should focus on diet, homeopathy and acupuncture.
Still more are taught by chiropractors associated with the Australian Vaccination Network, which campaigns against immunisation. Immunisation has saved hundreds of millions of lives. About 1.5 million deaths among children under five in 2008 alone were from diseases that could have been prevented by routine vaccination, says the World Health Organisation.
Dr Hambleton said the courses put the public at risk. ''The chiropractic board's primary role is not to promote the profession, it's to protect the public, and they should step up and make sure they do that,'' he said.
He said when chiropractors had been included in the Australian Health Practitioners Regulatory Agency, which covers 14 medical areas, there had been concerns it would lend weight to unscientific treatments. ''Each profession will be judged by its weakest link, and that's why we had concerns about adding potentially unscientific professions and having them given the imprimatur of nurses and doctors,'' he said.
The vice-president of Friends of Science in Medicine, Alastair MacLennan, said it was appalling that chiropractors were claiming to treat children for a broad range of childhood conditions, let alone claiming they removed the need for vaccination.
''Not all chiropractors believe they should be in child practice … The problem is the extreme believers are in charge of the organisation.''
A spokesman for the Chiropractic Board of Australia, Phillip Donato, said the board had outsourced the approval for the courses to the Chiropractors' Association of Australia and the Chiropractic and Osteopathic College of Australasia. The board ''was not aware that any approved CPD [continuing professional development] courses may not be consistent with the board's expectations''. It has now released a statement advising chiropractors to avoid giving advice about vaccination as it is not their area of expertise.
A national director of the Chiropractors' Association of Australia, Tony Croke, said he did not meet chiropractors who were anti-vaccination or claimed they could cure all disease.
''The Chiropractors' Association of Australia's stance on that is really clear … and that is for any medicine, whether it's a vaccine or blood pressure medication or anything, we recommend people go and talk to their GP and make an informed choice,'' he said.
He said chiropractors undertook five years of university training to become accredited.