Published: Fri, March 08, 2019
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

Ethan Lindenberger Testifies About Getting Vaccinated Despite Anti-Vaxxer Mother

Ethan Lindenberger Testifies About Getting Vaccinated Despite Anti-Vaxxer Mother

Ethan Lindenberger, an OH teen who got vaccinated against his parents' wishes, spoke at a Senate hearing on Tuesday.

Lindenberger said his mother's "love, affection and care are apparent" but said his school in Norwalk, Ohio, saw him as a "health threat" because of the danger he could become sick with a contagious disease.

The 18-year-old from OH spoke to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions about how he came to the decision to get vaccinated on his own, and how his parents developed their unfounded beliefs that vaccines are unsafe. He said he'd show his mother scientific studies but she instead relied on illegitimate sources that "instill fear into the public".

He said as he approached high school, he began to think critically for himself and presented information, including statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that challenged his mother's anti-vaccination ideas. "Between social media platforms, to using a parent's love as a tool, these lies cause people to distrust in vaccination, furthering the impact of a preventable disease outbreak and even contributing to the cause of diseases spreading", he said.

Not only has the USA experienced a slew of risky measles outbreaks in the past year (there have been 159 confirmed cases across 10 states) but the World Health Organization recently named vaccine hesitancy as one of the top 10 global health threats. An autism-vaccine link was long ago exposed as a fraud but still is cited by vaccine opponents. In the past, Paul has questioned whether vaccines should be required, and he's parroted anti-vaccine conspiracy theories, such as in 2015, when he said he'd "heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines".

Social media companies face increasing scrutiny for amplifying fringe anti-vaccine sentiment amid measles outbreaks in several states like Washington.

"I grew up in an (anti-vaccination) household".

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Health experts and advocates on Tuesday called on the federal government to create a national media campaign to counter false claims about vaccine safety that have been blamed for a rise in parents opting to not vaccinate their children. Nonetheless, opposition to mandatory vaccines remains fierce.

"I think it's the same with vaccinations", he added. Noting that his son and ex-wife are much more passionate about the subject than he is and that Wheeler is "100 percent anti-vaccines", he told the Reflector he is "now more in line with Ethan than I am his mother". "But I still do not favor giving up on liberty for a false sense of security". Bill Cassidy (R-La.) noted vaccine requirements only apply to children entering school, and exercising individual liberty should not come at the expense of the health of others. His father, though, said that since he's 18 he's fine with it.

Many teenagers like Ethan have started getting vaccinated by themselves against their parent's wishes.

"I want to speak directly to the parents who have children with serious health issues and who have been attending our hearings in Washington state and are watching this hearing today", health secretary Wiesman said at the hearing.

Nationally, the United States has high measles vaccination coverage.

According to Paul, people who support the measles vaccine "will be after us next" to mandate the flu vaccine. "The only way to protect against measles is to get vaccinated".

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