I have a lot of plans and ideas for how to raise a Little It. Piano lessons (par for the course when at least one parent is Asian). Homemade baby food. Mushroom hunting. Bilingual.
I'm quite aware that in a few weeks, after our Little It becomes a real person, that all of my plans and ideas might very well go out the window. We might never afford a keyboard. I might never cook another meal for three years, much less puree it into baby food. But there is one thing that I know for sure that I will do: get him stuck according to the Dutch schedule for childhood vaccines. Every single one of them, and all of their alphabet soup-y glory.
Now, I realize that vaccination does not confer 100% protection against nasties like measles and whooping cough. But some protection against the bugs is better than none, and it's infinitely more preferable than having a child end up handicapped (physically, mentally, or both) because of some perfectly preventable disease. And, if you do come down with the illness, having some protection usually means a milder course of illness. You'd have to be one hell of a cold-hearted bastard to confer on your own kid a full-blown case of measles and all its wonderful complications, when a mild one would suffice.
Vaccinations are good things*. Innoculations against smallpox have been performed for almost 500 years, and the fact that people risked dying in order not to die of smallpox just goes to show how terrifying the disease could be. Measles may be a simple rash--until it becomes an encephalitis and you stand a 15% chance of death. And, having suffered from my own case of whooping cough last year, I can assure you that what made me "merely" miserable for the better part of a month and put me on an inhaler for the better part of five months afterwards would kill an infant, whose breathing apparatus isn't nearly as strong as an adult's.
I guess I'm just annoyed at all of the au naturel parents out there who still swear that vaccines are dangerous and that enough vitamin C will cure everything. I totally understand the impulse to eliminate food coloring, preservatives, and sugar from your kids' diets. I totally understand "purifying" your environment so that they're as healthy as possible. I totally understand that you want to be the best parents ever. What I do not understand at all is why any parent would be willing to risk their own child's death in pursuit of a "healthy and pure" life. It's pathologically, narcisstically, selfish. It's dumb. It puts other kids in danger.
As for the autism question: more and more evidence is emerging to suggest that it's a hereditary condition, perhaps one that could be exaggerated by certain environmental factors. The fact that some kids are being diagnosed who would've otherwise been dismissed as "weird" surely accounts for some of the increase. Suffice it to say that, while 1% of the population may be autistic, 1% of the population is also schizophrenic, but nobody worries about the poor homeless shamblers.
*Yes, I know there are immunocompromised children who cannot receive some kinds of vaccines, as well as some people who have adverse reactions to everything. They are the ones for whom herd immunity is really important, because their lives depend on it, but sadly, they're also outnumbered by crazy-crunchy types. To which I say, get your own damn case of whooping cough.