Anti-Vaxxers Accidentally Fund Study That Shows No Link Between Vaccines and Autism

rhesus-monkeysStudy after study has proved that there is no scientific basis for thinking that vaccines cause autism, but still the anti-vaccine brigade refuses to listen. “Big Pharma” is corrupting the data, they say, and no journal would publish findings that would cost its biggest advertisers money. So some anti-vaxxers decided to take science into their own hands and fund their own study into the link between vaccines and autism. Spoiler alert: They didn’t find one.

According to IFLS, autism advocacy group and anti-vaccine organization SafeMinds reportedly funded a six-year study that investigated the effects of vaccinations on the social development and neurological behavior of baby rhesus monkeys. The monkeys were split into groups and given vaccines including thimerosol–an antifungal agent that was used in vaccines until the 90s, vaccines that did not include thimerosol, and a simple placebo of saline solution.

According to Newsweek, researchers then studied the monkeys for changes in behavior. Specifically, they were looking for signs of “autistic-like social behaviors, such as fear, withdrawal, rocking, self-clasping and stereotypy (repetitive behavior)” from the monkeys. No such behaviors were reportedly observed.

Postmortem analysis of the monkeys’ brains also reportedly showed no changes in the monkeys’ brains that would indicate autism or damage from vaccines.

”Our data do not support a role for thimerosal-containing vaccines in the neuropathology of autism spectrum disorder.” read the study, which was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

SafeMinds reportedly has declared that it has problems with the study and the researchers’ processes. The organization says that the published results contradict an earlier pilot study, during which SafeMinds says a correlation between autism and vaccination was possibly observed, and interim data reports by the scientists. The organization is calling for a reassessment of the results and even says researchers may have “cherry-picked” data.

The researchers disagree, and point out that the pilot study was preliminary and conclusions should not be drawn from it until all the animals had gone through the research process.

” … We have done everything possible to ensure the integrity of the data. My co-authors and I stand by our published findings,” said Dr. Laura Hewitson, a lead author on the study. ”The comprehensive nature of the current study underscores why the findings from the pilot study should be interpreted with an abundance of caution, given the small number of animals included.”

Hewitson also says that throughout the testing, she and the other scientists had no idea which monkeys were part of which group, and a strict chain of custody was preserved throughout the study to protect the integrity of the study. An independent statistical consultant was reportedly hired for all the data analysis, and outside advisors from two other academic institutions verified the findings.

(Photo: NikonPhotog/iStockPhoto/Getty Images)

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