Skeptical Raptor's Blog hunting pseudoscience in the internet jungle

Chili’s stubbornly sticks with its support of an antivaccination group

Yesterday I reported that on April 7, Chili’s, a chain of sit-down restaurants, is planning to contribute 10% of each guest’s check, across the USA, to an organization whose mission is to support the needs of the autism community. The reasons that Chili’s has chosen to do this are both noble and heartfelt, based on a viral story involving one of their restaurants. On the surface, it appears that this is a great example of being a good corporate citizen, and though I have never eaten at Chili’s, I considered doing so because I strongly support autism advocacy and research. 

And never caused by vaccines.

And never caused by vaccines.

Of course, I know that a significant minority of autism advocacy groups support some pseudoscientific and dangerous beliefs, so I check them closely. Unfortunately, the contributions from Chili’s are all going to National Autism Association, whose website states, in the section that discusses causes of autism, the following:

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.

There isn’t anything truthful or factual in that statement. The scientific consensus, the scientific fact is that vaccines are totally unrelated to autism. In study after study, researcher confirmed that there is no correlation, let alone causation, between immunizations and autism.

  • There is no known subset of children that can have autism triggered by vaccines. There is no evidence.
  • There is no evidence that an “overly aggressive vaccination schedule” leads to autism.
  • There is no evidence that “toxic adjuvants,” which are not toxic because the dosage is millions of times lower than what would be considered toxic, have an effect on the rate of autism.
  • In fact, there has been literally hundreds of studies that report research on the safety of vaccines, specifically with respect to autism.

Unless the science denying, ignorant fools at the National Autism Association have some secret study not based on anecdote and junk science, here’s the net effect of their lies–parents will read these fabrications, and decide not to vaccinate their children. Then more children will suffer from vaccine preventable disease. Which leads to more children dying of these preventable diseases. You connect the dots from the National Autism Association to a child dying of whooping cough–there aren’t that many dots.

There are several autism advocacy organizations, some run by autistic individuals, that either explicitly denounce any link between vaccines and autism, or completely ignore it: Autistic Self Advocacy NetworkAutism Women’s NetworkGRASPAutism Science Foundation, and Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University. Of course, this is just a few, and if there are others that I missed, please leave me a comment or use the contact page, and I’ll update as necessary.

Unfortunately, in the past 24 hours, Chili’s, being backed into a corner for their support of an organization that will harm more children than help, decided to double-down on their support of the National Autism Association with this post on their corporate Facebook page (and please go comment there if you can–it may help):

At Chili’s Grill & Bar, we’re about making every guest feel special and pride ourselves in giving back to our communities. When choosing a charitable partner for our Give Back Events, both locally and nationally, we are committed to supporting organizations dedicated to helping children and their families.

The intent of our 4/7 National Give Back Event is not to express a view on this matter, but rather to support the families affected by autism. Our choice to partner with the National Autism Association was based on the percentage of donations that would go directly to providing financial assistance to families and supporting programs that aid the development and safety of children with autism. We sincerely appreciate all of the feedback we’ve heard on this topic.

Let’s be clear here. Yes, it is important to partner with a charity based on how much of the money will go to actual good works. I’m on board with that tactic. But they decided to fund an organization whose goal is to harm children by passing along a completely false and refuted belief that vaccines cause autism. It simply doesn’t. My comment isn’t an “opinion.” My statement isn’t from a closed mind.

Vaccines don’t cause autism is based on billions of dollars of research, published in dozens of high quality medical journals, supported by some of the leading minds of epidemiology, biomedical science, virology, microbiology, infectious diseases. Unless you think that all evidence present on Google is equivalent in quality, the facts are very simple–no real data supports a link between autism and vaccines. None.

As I stated earlier, providing charitable contributions to organizations that support research or advocate for autism is wonderful. I think it’s a great idea for Chili’s to do this. And I’m sure some Public Relations geek at Chili’s headquarters in Dallas, TX looked through various autism organizations and thought that the National Autism Association was as good as any other, given their high percentage of using the money appropriately. But I guess that PR person didn’t know anything about the lies spread by some about vaccines. Or didn’t care. Or is actually antivaccine. Who knows? But this is a major mistake, and I won’t be going to Chili’s on April 7, and I hope anyone who reads this account will also refuse to do so. Then take 10% of the cost of whatever you eat on April 7, and send it to one of the groups above, they need it. And they won’t waste your money on trying to prove the scientifically ignorant belief that vaccines cause autism.

Vaccines do not cause autism. And real science has proven that.

Visit the Science-based Vaccine Search Engine.

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