1989 (age 30–31)
|Education||no tertiary qualifications|
|Occupation||"Instagram influencer" & Alt "health warrior"|
|Years active||2017 - present|
|Known for||Anti-vaxxer & wife of NRL player|
|Home town||Sydney, Australia|
|This article is part of a series on|
|Alternative and pseudo‑medicine|
Taylor Winterstein is a Samoan-Australian online influencer known for her public anti-vaccination stance. Winterstein has been heavily criticised in a number of South Pacific and Australasian countries for her anti-vaccination rhetoric, and her seminars have been called "irresponsible" by the Australian Medical Association and a "public health threat" by the Samoan Ministry of Health. She claims she has not encouraged non-vaccination, rather, "informed consent" and "freedom of choice".
Winterstein was born in Samoa, and her hometown is Campbelltown, a suburb of Sydney, Australia. She is perhaps best known for being the partner of Australian rugby league player Frank Winterstein, who she married in 2013. The couple have two children and in late 2019 the family moved to Toulouse, France for a two year period.
Winterstein brands her website and internet influence business as the "Tay's Way Movement". As of December 2019, she had over 22,000 Instagram followers. Winterstein claims: "I know for a FACT there are MANY high profile, 'influencers' on social media among the sport and wellness industry, who do not vaccinate their children but won’t publicly share their beliefs."
Online, Winterstein offers opinions on nutrition, medicine, home births, and the alleged dangers of 5G radiation and of vaccinating children. In one of her online programs ("An Hour of Power with Tay"), she asks her followers to "explore different options on how to build your child’s immune system naturally". In March 2019, Instagram placed restrictions on her account and her social media accounts were restricted by Facebook in a crackdown to prevent dangerous and misinformed anti-vaccination messages. Winterstein's online group of followers have a history of online abuse toward journalists who report unfavourably on her.
In 2019, The Australian newspaper suggested that Winterstein is getting traction with her health messages "because she’s a WAG - the wife of an NRL player". Her current business 'Tay's Way Moment' was established in 2017, prior to this Winterstein operated a business called 'Taylor'd Tans'.
Despite having no degree or qualifications, Winterstein claims she has done her "own research on vaccines" on the internet, and that she had "vaccinated" her son "at least 6 times a day with breastmilk". Due to her belief that vaccinations cause allergies, Winterstein prefers to call herself an "ex-vaxxer," and has chosen not to vaccinate her two boys, aged 10-months and 3-years old.
In 2018, Winterstein was selected as the "Australian face" and ambassador of the second tour of the anti-vaccination film Vaxxed. British anti-vaccination campaigner Polly Tommey, one of the producers of the film, announced Winterstein and her twin sister Stevie Nupier will be the "glamorous, young, intelligent women to take on and lead the people of Australia". Winterstein said: "I’ve dedicated years into my own vaccine research, meeting with politicians, connecting with practitioners and listening to parents".
Winterstein urges parents to question the safety of childhood vaccinations and says parents are being bullied and pressured by GPs to give their children vaccinations. She says she is a "big believer that you do not need a qualification to know how to critically think for yourself".
Melbourne surgeon John Cunningham, who was awarded an Order of Australia for his work promoting vaccinations, said Winterstein represented the "sinister version of the modern mumtrepreneur". He said her efforts to hitch onto the anti-vaccination crowd were morally corrupt. Brad McKay, a Sydney GP, accuses her of propagating rumours and anti-science information.
Royal Australian College of General Practitioners president Harry Nespolon suggested asking parents who they should turn to for health advice: "I would be asking people, who would they trust more with their child, their local doctor or a WAG". The treatments Winterstein recommends for curing measles showed an "utter absence of understanding of virology, pharmacology and biochemistry" according to UQ virologist Ian Mackay.
Involvement in 2019 measles epidemic in Samoa
Samoan health officials and the World Health Organization (WHO) blame unqualified figures such as Winterstein and the anti-vaccination movement for a decline in immunisation rates, which in turn caused the 2019 measles epidemic to be more severe and deadly. Winterstein blamed the Samoan government for the epidemic as she claims it did not distribute Vitamin A tablets to those who contracted the illness.
At the time Samoa had one of the lowest vaccination rates in the world. In the midst of the vaccination crisis in June 2019, just months before the measles outbreak, Winterstein met with fellow anti-vaxxer Robert Kennedy Jr. in Samoa. Winterstein hails Kennedy as a hero, and of him has said: "I am deeply honored to have been in the presence of a man I believe is, can and will change the course of history". US vaccine specialist and paediatrician Peter Hotez criticised the anti-vax movement targeting the small country saying: "We’re going to see them continue this predatory behaviour, identifying communities, island nations even whole countries in order to drive down vaccination coverage so it's a very serious threat now to global public health."
Nikki Turner, director of the Immunisation Advisory Centre at the University of Auckland accused the anti-vaccine movement of ramping up their activity in Samoa when the vaccination rates had dropped, particularly on social media. She said: "Anti-vaxxers arrive in big numbers when there’s concerns and lack of trust and the core of the problem that is happening in Samoa is lack of trust, lack of trust in vaccines in health service delivery."
Australian Medical Association New South Wales president Kean-Seng Lim criticised Winterstein's planned anti-vax workshop tour to Samoa saying: "To go to a third world country, to spread this in third world countries, is just irresponsible". "When you have a country which is full of small villages, it’s actually hard to get out there and vaccinate people, and if you have someone who is making it even harder still, that makes it harder", he said.
Samoan Ministry of Health Director-General Take Naseri described Winterstein's planned anti-vaccination seminar "Making Informed Choices" in Apia as a "public health threat". It was cancelled after the government backlash, but she continued to campaign online. Winterstein claimed she was not encouraging non-vaccination, but rather, "informed consent, freedom of choice and vaccine injury awareness".
Medical experts warned that the deadly measles outbreak in Samoa is a sign of the expansion of an increasingly predatory anti-vaccination movement.
A measles outbreak was declared on 16 October and led to the Samoan government declaring a state of emergency on 15 November 2019 and to the introduction of an emergency mandatory vaccination strategy. Under the emergency measures children and adults were obliged to vaccinate, while kindergartens, schools and the university were closed, and unvaccinated pregnant women were barred from attending work. With assistance from overseas, the government began a mass vaccination campaign. To assist in the mass vaccination measures, Samoa’s prime minister decreed that citizens "tie a red cloth or red flag in front of their houses and near the road to indicate that family members have not been vaccinated".
After the outbreak, the anti-vax activists doubled-down on social media, and the Samoan government met resistance from anti-vaxxers to its emergency strategy, notably from Winterstein. Helen Petousis-Harris, a vaccinologist at the University of Auckland, condemned those anti-vaxxers involved saying: "In a sense it’s a pro-death movement", adding that "We’ve got children dying and people are actively trying to stop people becoming vaccinated, and that vaccination is what’s going to prevent more deaths."
Winterstein likened the emergency mandatory vaccination strategy introduced after the outbreak to Nazi Germany, saying Samoa is "in violation of the Nuremberg Code" by enforcing mandatory immunisation, and posted a #NaziSamoa hashtag on social media. On social media she also said: "Facism [sic] is well and truly alive in Samoa", also noting "ambulances doing drive-bys to find children who are unvaccinated". Winterstein claimed Samoan children infected with measles were making a full recovery after using "simple and effective protocols" adding that "the media are still trying to rubbish and debunk". She was critical of the current medical treatment of antibiotics and acetaminophen being given, recommending vitamin A tablets for those with measles instead. Immunologist Nikki Turner said vitamin A can be used as part of treatment but it is no cure.
The Samoan Government ordered anti-vaccination advocates such as Winterstein to stop discouraging people from seeking vaccination, with the Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi suggesting imprisonment for anti-vaccination advocates. Samoa's Attorney-General Lemalu Hermann Retzlaff also warned against discouraging the vaccinations. He said "Samoan Law enforcement is open to receiving notice, complaints, or evidence of any person... discouraging or going as far as preventing our community from vaccination".
On December 6th, Samoan anti-vaxxer, Edwin Tamasese, was charged with "incitement against a government order". Winterstein supports the traditional healer as a "true hero" calling him the "hero on the ground".
As of late December, there were 83 deaths and 5,700 confirmed cases of measles out of a Samoan population of 201,000. Almost three percent of the population had been infected. The majority of those who had died were children under the age of five and infants.
Workshops and life-coaching programs
Winterstein is a self-proclaimed "Integrative Nutrition Health Coach",  and runs workshops such as "Making Informed Choices" which costs A$200 per person. She promotes skepticism about vaccinating children while raising fears about so-called "vaccine injuries". In an attempt to counter the Australian state and federal no-jab, no-play laws, the workshops also canvass anti-vaxxer parents' options for daycare and preschool. Winterstein has been critical of those who say they cannot afford the workshop entry fee, suggesting to followers; "if a money block is coming up for you, I invite you to explore that a little deeper and reflect on those limiting beliefs."
Winterstein also presented at the 2019 Canberra Vaccination Conference, an anti-vaccination event, alongside other renowned anti-vaxxers such as Judy Wilyman and Michael O'Neill from IMOP, an Australian anti-vax/anti-flouride political party.
In 2019, Winterstein had planned tours of Samoa, New Zealand and Australia, but the Samoan and New Zealand legs of the tour were cancelled with Winterstein blaming "organised groups ... working hard to sabotage" her. An online petition was organised to stop Winterstein's tour of New Zealand.
Alfa PXP Royale
Winterstein used her website to sell Alfa PXP Royale (PXP), a ground-up purple rice grown in Thailand. The website for the company that produces PXP, Enzacta, claims a number of health benefits for their product, including that it can help with pain, migraines, autism, improve eyesight and wrinkles. Other unsubstantiated medical claims have been made regarding PXP, including that it neutralises free radicals, incorrectly claimed to be the root of cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's, stroke and diabetes. Melbourne surgeon John Cunningham said PXP was essentially ground-up rice that might as well come from a kitchen pantry, saying: "I don’t think giving people like that false hope and making money from it is acceptable."
Winterstein sold PXP for up to $1000 a kilogram, whereas purple rice, which is the same as black rice, can be purchased from supermarkets for around $10 a kilogram. Customers could get a discount on PXP if they signed up to sell the product, also giving them the prospect of bonuses and luxury rewards. Enzacta, the company behind PXP, lists its office as a postbox in Wyoming, USA which is also a depot for hundreds of other businesses. An Enzacta salesperson in New Zealand stated it was a multi-level marketing company.
In March 2019, Winterstein announced that she was no longer selling PXP so as to focus on her workshops. Following a report on Winterstein by Australian television program A Current Affair, the product was removed from sale from her website.
- 2019 Tonga measles outbreak
- Measles resurgence in the United States
- Jeanette Wilson (also PXP promoter)
- 2019 in Oceania
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