Chili's Will Donate 10% of Customers' Checks to Anti-Vaxxers on April 7

Illustration for article titled Chili's Will Donate 10% of Customers' Checks to Anti-Vaxxers on April 7

Chili's intends to donate 10% of its customers' checks on April 7th to the National Autism Association, in honor of National Autism Awareness month. The problem? The NAA claims on its website that vaccines can trigger or exacerbate autism in "some, if not many, children." Dammit not this again.


UPDATE 04/06: Chili's has cancelled its plans to donate to the NAA in response to feedback received from the community.

Saying that vaccines cause autism makes about as much sense as blaming autism on organic food. Vaccines have been shown time and time again to be powerful tools in the fight against disease. Where they're used they save lives, and where they aren't, lives are lost.

To suggest that there is a causal relationship between vaccines and autism – a relationship the CDC has, following several investigations, plainly and repeatedly debunked – is irresponsible. The NAA's comments about vaccines triggering autism are based on anecdotes, not scientific research. When asked about the safety of vaccines, the association wriggles out of a straight answer by handing its readers off to the misleadingly named "National Vaccine Information Center." Via Business Insider:

NAA dodges a direct yes or no position about vaccines on its website FAQ, writing that it "cannot make this decision for any parent, but we are happy to provide sources of information to anyone in need. We recommend visiting"

That link goes to the National Vaccine Information Center, which journalist Michael Specter characterizes in his book "Denialism" as "an organization that, based on its name, certainly sounds like a federal agency. Actually, it's just the opposite: The NVIC is the most powerful anti-vaccine organization in America, and its relationship with the U.S. government consists almost entirely of opposing federal efforts aimed at vaccinating children."

Further evidence that NAA outsources its denialism: the association sponsors "Age of Autism," a website whose masthead asserts that "Yes, Vaccines Cause Autism."


In the spirit of responding with something more more substantial than "No, they don't": here and here and here and here and here is some of the scientific evidence for why they don't.

Chili's is, of course, free to donate its money wherever it damn well pleases – but you have a right to know where your money is going. And on April 7th, it'll be going to an organization that has no qualms drawing connections between vaccines and autism. If you believe in science, consider getting your baby back ribs fix somewhere else on Monday. Looking for another way to donate to autism research? Consider contributing to the Autism Science Foundation or the Wendy Klag Center at Johns Hopkins.


H/t Business Insider



How about cutting and pasting a bit more of NAA's website next time? And maybe credit them for the larger good that they do. I have two autistic children and I don't buy the vaccination-autism link, but I don't think it's proper to label the NAA with the popular delightful 'anti-vaxxer' label unless you're willing to grant their position more context.

From their site, but not included in the article:

While mainstream science discounts vaccinations as a cause, members of the National Autism Association feel vaccinations have triggered autism in a subset of children, and that an overly aggressive vaccination schedule coupled with toxic adjuvants in vaccines could affect individuals who have a family history of autoimmune disorders specifically. As with any medication, adverse events do happen, and vaccinations are no exception. Research to investigate, and reduce, adverse events in immunized individuals is currently nonexistent.

The National Autism Association believes:

  • Vaccinations can trigger or exacerbate autism in some, if not many, children, especially those who are genetically predisposed to immune, autoimmune or inflammatory conditions.