Science

Killing Monkeys to Prove Vaccines STILL Don’t Cause Autism

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Sorta transcript:

SafeMinds is an organization that spreads the misinformation that vaccines cause autism. Vaccines do not cause autism. Vaccines have never caused autism. More than 100 large, well-controlled, peer-reviewed studies show that vaccines do not cause autism. Last year a meta analysis of more than 1.2 million children found that there was no link between vaccines and autism. Vaccines do not cause autism. End of story.

But still, why not do one more study, wondered SafeMinds. A study on monkeys! After all, all these studies showing that vaccines do not cause autism in humans mean nothing if a vaccinated monkey might still be at risk.

So SafeMinds gave about $250,000 to various researchers for a long-term study on how childhood vaccines affect the brains of rhesus macaques. The results were just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, aka PNAS, and surprise! Macaque brains weren’t affected by vaccines at all. Not at all. Literally, there was zero difference between the brains of monkeys who got vaccines and those who didn’t. The vaccines didn’t affect the monkeys’ learning or behavior at all. Not even vaccines that had thimerosal in them, which was removed from childhood vaccines ages ago but which anti-vaccine groups still blame for autism.

SafeMinds is understandably pissed off, because they spend a lot of money on this research and they wanted to have something to put on billboards or something to scare more parents away from getting vaccines. They apparently weren’t expecting the scientists to actually do science.

So this is all just a big win for science-based medicine, right? Well, not really. I mean, yes, we have yet another study to throw on top of the enormous pile of studies showing that vaccines don’t cause autism, but the anti-vaccine groups weren’t paying attention to that pile, anyway. One more study isn’t going to help, and SafeMinds has already stated that they think the researchers they paid cherry-picked data. They’re just going to keep throwing money at scientists until they find another one like Andrew Wakefield — some piece of shit who will doctor the results to fit their narrative. And then they’ll put THAT study on their billboards.

In the meanwhile, this perfectly useless study killed 79 macaques. Are you surprised? You shouldn’t be, because that’s how the researchers were able to examine their brains. 79 monkeys were killed, for no reason.

I should say that even though I care deeply about animal welfare, I’m not necessarily opposed to animal research, provided that it’s done in a professional manner that is well-regulated. But there’s a difference between killing animals in the hope of finding new cancer treatments or studying surgical procedures, and killing animals to add another nail to a coffin that has already been nailed shut and buried 6 feet in the ground.

So to those keeping a body count of how many people have been killed due to anti-vaccinationist propaganda, please add 79 monkeys to your data. Thanks.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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2 Comments

  1. October 15, 2015 at 2:06 am —

    The proper study would be waiting around for random children around 1 year old to die and then pouncing on them to dissect their brains. The could do a great collab effort with Ben Carson who after all has experience with this kind of thing and no qualms with post-birth baby parts. Perhaps I shouldn’t be giving them ideas.

  2. October 15, 2015 at 11:54 am —

    While I’m generally pragmatic about animal issues, I can’t see the benefit of trying to have one more study to test (and, in SafeMinds’ dreams, disprove) a theory that’s been tested to the point of being practically the most certain anything in science gets.

    But you know how antivaxxers are: “Hey! Let’s just kill some monkeys, and maybe, just maybe we’ll get some propaganda out of it!”

    I miss the old antivaxxers, the ones that were social Darwinists, that vaccines were interfering with the role of disease in His divine plan. At least they were honest in their desire to shorten human lifespans.

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