Teenager who got vaccinated against his mother's wishes testified before Congress
Some teenagers rebel against their parents by getting multiple piercings or an outrageous hairstyle. Ethan Lindenberger rebelled against his parents by getting vaccinated.
When Ethan was young, his mother never inoculated him against diseases like measles, chickenpox and polio because she believed vaccinations could lead to autism and brain damage. When he grew older, he discovered scientific evidence does not back up that belief. He tried to convince his mom to let him get his shots, as the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends. However, she wouldn't budge, insisting vaccinations were "some kind of government scheme."
So, to celebrate his 18th birthday, Ethan decided to get vaccinated for 'everything.' His post seeking advice on Reddit went viral, receiving over a thousand responses and drawing attention from national news outlets. After getting vaccinated for various illnesses, including hepatitis A and B, influenza and HPV, the Ohio teenager returned to Reddit to answer everyone's questions.
When asked how his relationship is with his mother, Ethan said, "My mother and I have a great relationship....we’ve been able to build a foundation that we still love each other regardless of disagreement." Although his mom's mind hasn't changed on the matter, he hopes his crusade will persuade other anti-vaxx parents. "I’m not attempting to make people look stupid," he asserted. "There’s an aspect of this where you can’t deny the overwhelming evidence in support of vaccines... The science supports vaccines."
Ethan's story is not an isolated case. This year the United States was swept by outbreaks of preventable diseases, including at least 206 confirmed cases of measles in 11 states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas and Washington, where the governor declared a state of emergency. Many states, including Ethan's home state of Ohio, allow parents to opt out of vaccinating their children for moral reasons.
In response, Congress held a hearing entitled 'Vaccines Save Lives: What is Driving Preventable Disease Outbreaks.' Public health officials called for more to done to prevent these crises, like increasing funding for immunization programs and launching a campaign about their importance. On Tuesday, Ethan himself testified before Congress, speaking about the dangers of misinformation, and explaining that his misinformed mother acted out of love, not malice.
"To combat preventable-disease outbreaks, information is, in my mind, the forefront of this matter," Ethan told the senators. "My mother would turn to anti-vaccine groups online and on social media, looking for her evidence in defense rather than health officials and other credible sources. This may seem to be in malice because of the dangers of not vaccinating imposes, but this is not the case. My mother came in the sense of loving her children and being concerned."
"For certain individuals and organizations that spread misinformation, they instill fear into the public for their own gain selfishly and do so knowing that their information is incorrect," he continued. "For my mother, her love, affection and care as a parent, was used to push an agenda to create a false distress, and these sources which spread misinformation should be the primary concern of the American people. Approaching this issue with the concern of education and addressing misinformation properly can cause change, as it did for me."