April is Autism Awareness Month and to celebrate, Chili’s restaurants will be donating 10% of every customer’s check to charity on Monday, April 7. Sounds great, right? Well…
The charity that has been selected is the National Autism Association. This organization has a reputation for its anti-vaccine views, claiming that “Vaccinations can trigger or exacerbate autism in some, if not many, children, especially those who are genetically predisposed to immune, autoimmune or inflammatory conditions.”
Now, the biggest problem with having that as their first bullet point on what causes autism is that there is no scientific evidence to support that statement. The NAA’s website lists parent reports as evidence, not any actual scientific research. Vaccines typically make a good scapegoat because it is a memorable milestone and parents sometimes use as a marker to gage when changes in behavior first began to happen.
The NAA also states that “while mainstream science discounts vaccinations as a cause, members of the National Autism Association feel vaccinations have triggered autism in a subset of children.” In other words, the NAA admittedly prefers anecdotal evidence to rigorous, peer-reviewed studies. The website also links to many discredited anti-vaccine sources, such as the National Vaccine Information Center, Age of Autism, and others.
The CDC recommends vaccines for all children healthy enough to receive them to prevent disease. Vaccinations are estimated to save over $13 billion annually in healthcare costs for Americans alone, and have saved countless lives around the globe.
Chili’s is offering the promotion at over 1,200 restaurants across the United States. This alliance between the restaurant and NAA has sparked criticism and controversy, leading Chili’s to issue this statement: