There are two things that non-profit group Safe Minds—committed to “ending the autism epidemic”—doesn’t understand: First, that there is absolutely no link between vaccines and autism. Second, how research works.
I Fucking Love Science reports that the group just put out a statement discrediting a recent study they funded that, once again, shows that there’s no link between autism and vaccination. The study was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and is the result of six years of research focusing on whether giving baby monkeys vaccines results in the development of “autism-like behavior or neuropathology.”
The study...involved 79 infant monkeys in six groups. Two groups were given thimerosal-containing vaccines. Thimerosal is an antiseptic and antifungal agent that was frequently used in vaccinations until it was removed in the U.S from vaccines given to children in the 90s, and is frequently cited by anti-vaxxers as a cause for autism. The next two groups were given the MMR vaccine (also claimed to cause autism) without thimerosal, and the final two were given saline injections as a control.
And here’s what the study found:
No behavioral changes were observed in the vaccinated animals, nor were there neuropathological changes in the cerebellum, hippocampus, or amygdala. This study does not support the hypothesis that thimerosal-containing vaccines and/or the MMR vaccine play a role in the etiology of autism.
Now, this is great news for parents who were considering not vaccinating their kids because it’s even more data that shows that foregoing necessary vaccinations is dumb as fuck and puts both the non-vaccinated kid and the people around them in danger. But if you’re running a group predicated on the notion that vaccines are bad, you’re probably not going to be as pleased with the results. And Safe Minds isn’t. In fact, they want to know exactly what happened and why the study they funded didn’t give them the results that they wanted.
This is the statement that Safe Minds put out when asked about how much they paid to help fund the study:
“The epidemic of autism is expected to cost the country $1 trillion by 2025 if prevalence trends continue. In a recent study, over 40 percent of parents agree or strongly agree that vaccines played a part in the development of their children’s autism. The vaccine primate study in question consisted of multiple phases. The initial phase found a series of negative effects in infant reflexes and brain growth among those exposed to vaccines. The second, recent phase purported to find no effect. SafeMinds has concerns about changes in the study design protocol and analysis that may have led to these contradictory results. We are in the process of collecting and reviewing additional information regarding this study.”
Some other things people who have opinions but no expertise agree on: leaving kids unattended in cars is fine, spanking is gr8, and single moms suck. (That last one wasn’t limited to parents, but it’s a good reminder that just asking people what they think is a useless exercise which reminds us that nothing in the world is good.)
Safe minds is upset about two things. They claim that the final results of the study are contradictory to what they initially believed them to be—which is a thing that happens fairly often in research and is why we do research in the first place — even though they claim they had no “preconceived notions” going into the research. They also claim that the part of the research they funded never actually happened. Now they want a reanalysis of the data, even though the authors of the study assert that all the information had been given to an independent statistical consultant. (But, like, not the right one or something, according to Safe Minds.) It’s also important to note that while Safe Minds was in no way duped, IFSL points out that the data they initially received was preliminary and resulted from a “much smaller trial” which was then expanded and held to more rigorous scientific standards.
What does this mean for the general public while Safe Minds gets all its information together and then tries to present a case against the study? Vaccines still don’t and never have caused autism. Sorry.
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