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.
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 http://nvic.org."
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."
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