Yesterday’s post on Dawn Winkler, the antivaccination activist who is presently running for the Governor of Colorado on the Libertarian ticket, provoked this comment, which linked to an amusing e-mail exchange that Australian skeptic Peter Bowditch had with her regarding vaccines a couple of years ago. After reading that exchange, I now think that I was probably a bit more easy on Ms. Winkler than she deserved. Perhaps I gave her too much of the benefit of the doubt because of the death of her first child of SIDS. I realize more strongly now that personal tragedy does not immunize her from deserved criticism of the policies she advocates, which, if implemented, would mean massive return of vaccine-preventable diseases like measles, with all the attendant deaths and disability that would come with their return.
Indeed, just a casual perusal of her comments to Peter Bowditch reveal that she is even more unhinged in her views about vacines than I had thought. Here’s just a taste (and, sadly, this is only a fairly small sample of the rants she subjected Peter to):
“I have never witnessed such blatant stupidity and ignorance as I have on your website. I am literally going to vomit.” (I would sincerely love it if my blog provoked the same reaction in Ms. Winkler, should she become aware of it. Come on over!)
“Yes, vaccines containing mercury cause autism, Asperger’s, ADD, and a host of other horrifying problems including death.” (No, they don’t cause autism, Asperger’s, or ADD. as I have discussed time and time again. Deaths from vaccines are very rare. In countries where mass vaccination is not done, deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles, are not. If Ms. Winkler got her way, those death rates could be ours.)
“Oh my God, have you ever been around and autistic child that doesn’t speak and still shits his pants at age 8? Because I have, and you just don’t MISS THAT diagnosis and figure out how to diagnose it correctly because it is now 2004. Autism went from 1 in 20,000 to 1 in 166.” And, sadly, Ms. Winkler had even more to say about autism: “Half of the 1.5 million autistic children in the US don’t speak and still shits their pants. Yes. The other half are what they call high functioning autistics. Where have you been?” (These two are for you, Kev and Diva. Maybe you’d like to have a go at them. Her statements reveal that, not only is Ms. Winkler totally ignorant about vaccines, but she has zero clue about autism as well. She thinks that the 1 in 166 figure for autism includes only severe cases of autism, when in fact it includes the entire spectrum of ASDs, from Aspergers to autism. What a twit. I wonder if autism advocates in Colorado would like to be made aware of Ms. Winkler’s statements.)
“Vaccinated children are sick, period. Their Th1/Th2 balance is messed up because they have overstimulated one response rather than naturally allowing both to take place. They have Th2 mediated diseases, asthma, etc. They have snot dripping all the time, they are on antibiotics more than anyone should be, they have ear infections, they have have dark circles around their eyes, they have allergies, and on and on and on. And our medical community labels them healthly, as I’m sure you do as well.” (Actually, there are good studies that suggest that vaccinated children have lower rates of asthma, as I’ve discussed before. I have to say, though, her comment about vaccinated children having dark circles under their eyes and snot dripping all the time is a new one on me.)
I could go on with even more examples of Ms. Winkler’s misinformed rants, but I think Peter summed it up best responding to Ms. Winkler and people like her:
You [Ms. Winkler]…actively advocate that children should be denied protection against life-threatening and disabling diseases, and the inevitable result of such advocacy, should it be even partially successful, is the death or permanent harm of many children. If you got everything you wanted, the deaths would be counted in the tens of millions and the blind, halt and lame in the hundreds of millions. You would sentence children to death.
Those are the stakes, and what Ms. Winkler is advocating is very different from expressing concern about whether certain vaccines (such as the Hepatitis B vaccine) really need to be made mandatory for all. Such questions are issues that medical authorities have legitimate disagreements about, but none of them dispute the usefulness of mass vaccination. What they will sometimes disagree over is the margins, whether certain less common or less virulent diseases ought to be vaccinated against. When she (and other antivaccination advocates) bring up such questions about specific vaccines, like the Hepatitis B vaccine or the HPV vaccine, it’s not about reasonable disagreements, though. It’s nothing more than a subterfuge for their true agenda: The elimination of mandatory vaccinations, period.