(WARNING: Post contains unvarnished opinions of people who don't vaccinate, in case you couldn't tell. Be prepared.)
I'm well aware that vaccine injury does exist, but it's not what these anti-science, anti-medicine people claim. And vaccines do not cause autism. There have been over ten years of studies showing no link between vaccines and autism, the man who claimed that there was any link at all was exposed as a gross fraud interested in his own profits, and claim after claim of the antis (mercury, anti-freeze, various horrors, including, rather hilariously, "eagle tissue") has been shown to have no effect on autism whatsoever.
Consider that mercury, once held as the reason why vaccines caused autism, was discontinued in all vaccines other than flu shots, yet there has been no downturn in autism diagnoses. The "explosion" of cases of autism is explained through the wonders of correct evaluation of children who formerly were diagnosed as "retarded", "morons", "idiots", and "that weird kid who never talks to anyone and won't make eye-contact".
The issue was thrust into the media spotlight again recently when Michele Bachmann claimed a woman told her that the Gardisil vaccine had made her child mentally retarded. (There's also an extra helping of "oh noes! The girls will have the sexxors!!" evil around that particular vaccine, which the Republicans are happy to leap on.)
Honestly, I get so tired of people who won't use their brains to research properly. The upswing in pseudoscience and superstition that happens in many cultures every century, and certainly every millennium, is partially responsible, but there is so much easily available research out there. We have the Intarwebs! It's not just for LOLcats!
I think there's been such a growth in people who believe all the nonsense people like Jenny McCarthy spew out, because people genuinely want to believe that magic exists. There really is a silver bullet out there, and the Man[tm] doesn't want you to know about it. How many spam e-mails have you received that claim to have the one secret that "doctors don't want you to know!"?
The sad thing is, there really is a silver bullet; one that worked so amazingly, that it almost seemed like magic. That magical thing is vaccinations. My mother, born in 1926, remembers when polio was a fact of life, and seeing entire hospital wards of people in iron lungs because they were paralyzed by polio was normal. When I was a child in the 1980s, there was a really scary kind of virus (HiB) that caused meningitis in young children, and 30% of those infected could end up deaf, brain-damaged, or dead. I remember the "special" schools; there was one not far from where we lived, and my class would go over there to do things with the kids. Then, in the 1980s, a vaccine was made, and Hib disappeared. There are pediatricians today who have never seen a case. In less than 30 years, a disease that routinely killed was conquered. Polio? Pretty much gone in the US. Smallpox? Gone.
Bob, being 19 years older than me, got the polio vaccine, but nothing else. In a two year span, he got mumps, measles, chicken pox, scarlet fever, and pertussis, also known as whooping cough (CORRECTION: He tells me he got the first four and also rubella, in a 3 MONTH period in first grade! He got pertussis several years later), for the sound an infected person makes when they are coughing so hard they almost suffocate because they can't breathe. He's lucky he's not deaf, sterile, brain-damaged, blind, or scarred. I got chicken pox, measles, and scarlet fever - they had some more vaccines by the time I was born. If we had children, they'd be vaccinated for everything. There are risks associated with vaccines for an unlucky few. There are also problems with many vaccines for people with allergies, since many of them use egg products. But we do not live isolated from each other, we are a society, and vaccines help keep our herd immunity so that those who cannot get vaccinated - the immune compromised, the elderly, the very young, and others - are protected.
What the anti-vaxxers want is for all those deadly, scarring, disfiguring diseases to make a comeback, because they're more "natural". Even though reseach has shown time ad time again that there is no correlation between vaccines and autism, they refuse to listen. But what really frosts my shorts is the callous disregard they have for the children who die because of their unreasoning fear. That, and the way they talk about people with autism. The words "nightmare", "broken", or "soulless" should never be used to describe a child, especially one with a disability.
Yes, I'm being harsh. But that's because these people don't care if children die from preventable diseases! There's nothing I can say that's harsh enough to compare with that! And they use bad research, discredited studies, and folk superstition to put their children through absolute torture to "cure" them.
Autism is a developmental delay disorder. Even children who seem completely unreachable improve over time; that's what the "delay" part of the description is about. One of the things that's been really amazing is how the Internet has allowed people with autism to be able to communicate in ways they never have before. I've "talked" with people who tell me that if I met them face to face, they'd be unable to talk to me, and that most people who meet them assume they're "retarded". On line, they get to be their inside selves - the one that isn't overwhelmed with environmental stimuli. Most "normals" are deeply uncomfortable with people who are different from them, and the internet removes that difference. To describe any of the people I've had the privilege to meet as "soulless" or "broken" would be as far from the truth as the idea that magic bunnies put my milk in the fridge every morning.
As far as I can tell, the heart of the anti-vaccination movement is built around people who are desperately searching for some reason why their child isn't "normal". While I really do sympathize with people who have children with special needs (my sister is special needs), their wrong-headed crusade against a non-culprit is dangerous and deadly. I can only think that it is because they have never seen the results of these diseases, and they have the leaders of their movement telling them that measles is no big deal, and pertussis is "just a bad cough".
Far from needing a month to raise awareness for their "cause", I think they need to spend that month reading about the effects of the diseases they consider "no big deal". And ask themselves if sacrificing the lives of other people's children is really a price they're comfortable paying.
The really sad thing is, I think they don't care.