A couple of weeks ago, I linked to an amazingly ignorant antivaccination screed published in the Winona Daily News. In the comments, I was made aware of another antivaccination screed in the form of a letter to the editor to the Winona Post. (Unfortunately, I am unable to locate it online.) Now, today, I find that there are people in Winona who are trying to outdo Jim and Laurie Jenkinson (the authors of the first article) in serious stupidity in the form of a letter to the editor published in the Winona Daily News entitled It Is Important to Learn More About Vaccinations.

I’d normally agree that it’s important to learn more about vaccinations were it not for my observation that apparently the “more about vaccinations” that the authors of this article, Andrea Dornbusch, Helen Sutter and Maria Grunz, want you to “learn about” is a load of antivaccinationist distortions, misinformation, conspiracy mongering, and logical fallacies. Indeed, the “more” that these brilliant scholars (who can’t seem to write a coherent sentence) want you to learn includes rants about “trace” amounts of thimerosal remaining in vaccines, rants against big pharma, and a real gem of antivaccinationist stupidity that distinguishes itself from the pack through its sheer chutzpah:

We do not allow some of the ingredients found in vaccines to be sprayed on our food, yet we are injecting them into our children. It will always be a debate if any ingredient in vaccines is the cause for a wide variety of disorders because people are people and everyone has their opinion.

Oh, no! Toxins! The Evil Big Pharma Overlords and their CDC lackeys r poysnin ur babies! Run away!

How do we know this?

Because three twits writing a letter to a small town newspaper think so. That’s right. Science doesn’t matter. All those epidemiological studies that have failed to find a link between thimerosal and autism don’t matter. All those epidemiological studies that failed to find a link between vaccines in general and autism don’t matter. All that matters is that “everyone has their opinion.”

Never mind that opinions are like…well, you’ve heard the saying before.

The Winona Antivax Three do sort of get one thing right, though. As long as people as ignorant as them have “opinions” that they can somehow represent as being on the same order of magnitude of value as scientific data, there will always be a “debate.” It just won’t be a scientific debate. It’s a debate with basic science and epidemiology on the one side and overheated scientifically ignorant conspiracy theories on the other side. In other words, it’s a pseudodebate, and it’s one in which scientists have one hand tied behind their backs because it is considered “arrogant” to tell such people bluntly that they just plain have no clue what they’re talking about.

Still, I wonder. What is it about Winona, MN that seems to produce so many antivaccination rants? Is it something in the water? I don’t recall ever having heard of the town before I was made aware of the first article that set me off.


  1. #1 wackyvorlon
    May 20, 2008

    It’s tempting to write my own letter to the editor…

  2. #2 Teej
    May 20, 2008

    Actually, it might be in the water. I canvassed for Clean Water Action there about 12 years ago to implement a moratorium on factory farms in the county. The whole area is karst limestone, with lots of cracks leading right down to the aquifer.

    The existing farms were bleeding so much manure into the soil that the aquifer was dangerously saturated with nitrates. Pregnant women drinking municipal water were having blue (cyanotic) babies because of the contamination. Grocery stores had started passing out free gallons of bottle water to pregnant women.

    Agribusiness f’ed up the water down there. Paranoia plus water contamination breeds conspiracy theory. Just sayin’s all.

  3. #3 Esther
    May 20, 2008

    I’ve always wondered about Schaumburg, IL myself…home both to Joe Mercola and La Leche League HQ.

    (Yes, I know LLL doesn’t have an official position about vaccines, not “mixing issues” and all that. Unfortunately, some of their shriller members do hold such positions, like our local LLLLeader who has a whole bunch of Geier-turds littering her otherwise excellent breastfeeding website. *sigh*).

  4. #4 Chemgeek
    May 20, 2008

    Is there any truth to the claims they make about thimerosal usage in vaccines today? I’m inclined to believe those claims are either flat out wrong or ignorant distortions, but I don’t have data or other specific information readily available to prove it.

  5. #5 HCN
    May 20, 2008

    Chemgeek check this:

    Plus, thimerosal was removed from vaccines in other countries earlier (Canada, UK, Denmark, etc), and the rise in autism is similar to the USA.

  6. #6 Anne
    May 20, 2008

    Both lead and mercury are deadly poisons…mercury even more poisonous than lead. Lead has been outlawed in paints and other products as being deadly to children. A dentist who filled your teeth with lead amalgam fillings would be liable for malpractice. However, mercury amalgam fillings are the standard, and mercury was allowed in childrens’ vaccines and in mold-repellent paints.

    Why is that? Is there a double standard for the two poisons?

    In many European countries it is illegal to use mercury amalgam in dental fillings…yet we still pretend it is not a powerful toxin when it comes to injecting it into our children.

    A scientific study is only as good as the design of it. And who ran the studies on mercury/ADD? Perhaps one of the big pharmaceutical companies?

  7. #7 rmp
    May 20, 2008

    On Sunday, the WDN posted an editorial by a pediatrician that I thought was quite good. See it here . I posted in the comments (rmp = richard pflughoeft) what a good editorial it was and of coarse we now here back from Laurie about the evils of the mmr. I find some (not much) comfort in the fact that I found that even the 909 shot website claims that there is mercury in mmr. With that little victory, I am enjoying a glass of wine (hey, celebrate the crumbs if you have to).

    PS: has there ever been any more comment from Mr. Kennedy regarding his 2005 article. The polyanna in me wants to think he’d change his story.

  8. #8 rmp
    May 20, 2008

    arrrrgggg. typo. the ‘mercury calendar’ used by the 909 website says 0 mercury. I shouldn’t guzzle my wine.

  9. #9 Woobegone
    May 20, 2008

    I think mercury makes you smarter. Over the 20th century, IQ scores consistently and progressively increased (the “Flynn Effect”), while mercury exposure went through the roof what with all those vaccines and fillings and factories.

    That’s my opinion and it’s as good as that of anyone else…

  10. #10 Winawer
    May 20, 2008

    Still, I wonder. What is it about Winona, MN that seems to produce so many antivaccination rants? Is it something in the water? I don’t recall ever having heard of the town before I was made aware of the first article that set me off.

    Small town + groupthink = random lunacy?

  11. #11 rmp
    May 20, 2008

    hey now, watch how broad a brush you use.

    Outnumbered but not surrendering in Winona.

  12. #12 CanadianChick
    May 20, 2008

    Anne, please please please tell me you’re trying to be funny…otherwise I’ll have to explain how dangerous chlorine is…

  13. #13 rmp
    May 20, 2008

    Orac, I definitely owe you a beer. If you would happen to share space with PZ anytime soon, it would be convenient. I can’t tell you how many beer’s I’ve promised PZ.

  14. #14 Who Cares
    May 21, 2008

    Don’t you know we kicked thimerosal out of vaccines here on the old continent? Denmark chucked the stuff in 1992, based on that they should have had a peak in 1998 and then a sharp drop instead the amount of kids diagnosed with ASD stayed level.

    Further in many European countries it is not prohibited to use amalgam fillings. Most countries have restrictions on how to use mercury since 2003 but generally exempt its use for dental applications. Only Norway has a complete ban and several other countries restrict it’s use on children.

    Oh and your conspiracy theory fails [b]big time[/b] just using the data from Denmark. No use of thimerosal for 16 years and no significant drop of ASD related diagnoses which should have happened if the anti-vaccination crowd was right. About the only thing the anti-vac people do is punch holes in the herd protection required to keep the few people for whom the vaccination didn’t take hold (or young kids who still need to receive them) safe.

    Thanks for the reply (10-5)

  15. #15 DLC
    May 21, 2008

    Ahh. more Google University grad students writing letters to the editor. Where’s a good toxicologist when you need one to explain the difference between some intake and LD-50 level ?
    Ignorance I don’t mind as much, as it can be cured by learning. Stupidity, on the other hand, does not seem to have a cure.

  16. #16 mr_p
    May 21, 2008

    Do they still put arsenic in ham? Was that an old urban legend?
    In any case arsenic is an effective poison, but it was approved for use in 2000 to treat leukemia, and has been used in medicines since the 17 or 1800’s. Shhh. don’t tell Anne.

    People need to understand it is all about the dose. Too much water can kill you – and I mean drinking it, not inhaling it, but we can’t live without it.

  17. #17 COLMCQ
    May 21, 2008

    “Why is that? Is there a double standard for the two poisons? ”

    no, your confusion has arisen from profound misunderstandings of chemistry and biology. As a first step I would look up the differences between complexed Hg and Hg-. As a second step I would rethink how you define ‘poison’.


  18. #18 Jamie
    May 21, 2008

    “Is it something in the water? ”
    Mercury would do it. It’s a neurotoxin, you know.

  19. #19 Jamie
    May 21, 2008

    “profound misunderstandings of chemistry … Hg- ”
    Just sayin’.

  20. #20 colmcq
    May 23, 2008

    I think my degree was a total waste of time you know.

  21. #21 rmp
    May 25, 2008

    Paul Anderson, thank you for your letter to the editor at the Winona Daily News!

New comments have been temporarily disabled. Please check back soon.