Son of anti-vaxx mom who got vaccinated 'for everything' on 18th birthday shares all
Ethan Lindenberger was never vaccinated during his childhood because his mother believed that vaccinations could lead to autism and brain damage. As he grew older, he realized science does not support that belief, but he was unable to change his mom's mind. When he presented evidence to her, she rejected it, believing vaccinations were "some kind of government scheme." As a result, the Ohio teen was never inoculated against illnesses such as hepatitis, measles, rubella, and mumps.
Like many children of anti-vaxx parents, Ethan turned to Reddit, seeking information on how to get properly vaccinated. The post got over one thousand responses. To celebrate his 18th birthday, Ethan got vaccinated for 'everything,' including diseases like hepatitis A and B, influenza and HPV. The story went viral, leading to interviews with NPR, CBS This Morning and Good Morning America. Since numerous people were curious for an update, Ethan returned to Reddit for a round of Ask Me Anything. Here are some highlights.
How’s your relationship with your mother after making your decision?
"My mother and I have a great relationship. Although we are continuing to discuss evidence and our different viewpoints we’ve been able to build a foundation that we still love each other regardless of disagreement."
Does your dad stick by your mom on the anti-vaxx view?
"My dad believes vaccinating young children, especially with a lot of shots, is bad. After they develop a strong immune system he believes they’re fine and I really question the evidence on that front."
Have you discussed your reasoning for getting vaccinated with your siblings?
"I have discussed it with my siblings and they each have their own individual thoughts. My sister supports my mom’s views and my brother is more on my side. He’s expressed a desire to get vaccinated but he’s still doing his own research. We all understand our mom loves us, but she is misinformed. I disagree with her on almost every level. That’s a weird place to be in but we have made it work."
Do you think it's possible to use your moment in the spotlight to craft an appeal to anti-vax parents that is different from what they are used to?
"I think this totally could be used to appeal to the antivaxx crowd. In a way it already has, because people have noticed that I’m not attempting to make people look stupid. There’s an Aspect of this where you can’t deny the overwhelming evidence in support of vaccines, but you don’t need to present that in a way that is super hostile... The science supports vaccines."
What was something surprising that you learned when researching “Vaccines vs. Non-Vaccines”?
"That not everyone should be vaccinated. Immunodeficient people and kids with allergic reactions to vaccines shouldn’t be pushed to get vaccinated. Herd immunity will protect those people. So the idea that the government is FORCING people to get vaccinated even if they have a weak immune system or allergies isn’t even true. That was surprising and reaffirmed to me the importance of getting vaccines as a young adult who is healthy and able to get those vaccines."
Are there any other extreme views your parents had growing up?
"Extreme? Maybe, depends on what you find extreme. They are both very conservative and hold very conservative views, and because of that we disagree on a lot of political ideas in a way I find extreme. I don’t want to try and bash my parents though and say, “oh yeah they believe [blank] stupid idea, that’s so extreme!” At this point the antivaxx community would see that as further proof this story is just about a rebellious teenager."
What was your mother’s reaction when you got vaccinated?
"When I told her I was getting vaccinated, she was upset. She was scared and thought I was going to harm myself by getting vaccinated.
That thought process makes sense when you REALLY believe vaccines cause brain damage, cause autism, and are a corporate scheme. But the evidence isn’t there, the data supports vaccines on nearly every scientific and logical level. When I presented sources that WERE scientific and reliable like the CDC taking numerous studies and concluding vaccines don’t cause autism, those were dismissed as big pharma governmental schemes.
So at that point I knew there was a strong likelihood my mom was deeply misinformed and I’d have to make this decision without her immediate support”
Since you’ve grown up with an anti-vaxx mom, would you say that there are any misconceptions people have about anti-vaxxers?
"That they hate their kids. My mom loves me and my siblings, and that love was used as a tool by the antivaxx community to convince loving parents like her that she’s poisoning her kids and giving them autism. It’s the sources of that information I believe are entirely malicious and downright evil for doing that. So yeah, that’s why I’ve seen at least in my case"
To read the full AMA, check out Ethan's post on Reddit.