18-Year-Old Testifies About Getting Vaccinated Despite Mother's Anti-Vaccine Beliefs

Henrietta Brewer
March 8, 2019

One area of particular concern, the USA has counted more measles cases in the first two months of 2019 than in all of 2017 - and part of the rising threat is misinformation that makes some parents balk at a crucial vaccine, federal health officials told Congress in late February. Ethan Lindenberger (R), student at Norwalk High School in Norwalk, Ohio, who confided in a now-viral Reddit post that he had not been fully vaccinated due to his mother's belief that vaccines are risky, speaks before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on March 5, 2019.

"I grew up understanding my mother's beliefs that vaccines were unsafe", he said.

OH teen Ethan Lindenberger also told Congress during the hearing why he chose to get vaccinnated, despite his mother's disapproval. "I have seen people who have not been vaccinated who have required liver transplantation because they were not, and who have ended up with awful diseases for no other reason than they did not understand vaccination was important".

This year is shaping up to be a bad one for measles as already, the USA has counted more than 200 cases in 11 states - including about 70 in an outbreak in the Pacific Northwest.

"Many people don't resonate well with data and numbers - they resonate better through stories", he said.

Sarah Myriam of New Jersey holds her daughter Aliyah 2 as they join activists opposed to vaccinations outside a Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington

Lindenberger's mother, Jill Wheeler, was surprised by her son's decision but said she was "proud of him, for standing for what he believes in, even if it is against what I believe".

Lindenberger created national headlines after he posted on Reddit several months ago that, "my parents think vaccines are some kind of government scheme" and "god knows how I'm still alive".

A recent Washington state measles outbreak, one of six ongoing outbreaks in the United States, has afflicted 71 people, the Department of Health reports.

Experts are increasingly concerned that growing rates of vaccine hesitancy-the delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite their availability-has led to several outbreaks of easily preventable, such as measles, in certain parts of the USA and Europe in recent years. They in turn are a hazard to people who can't get vaccinated - babies who are too young or people with weak immune systems.

"Given the choice, I do believe that the benefits of most vaccines vastly outweigh the risks, yet it is wrong to say that there are no risks to vaccines", Paul said. "Can I get vaccinated at my age?"

"But I still do not favor giving up on liberty for a false sense of security." he concluded.

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) on Tuesday clashed with Sen.

The teenager added that he knew his mother loved him, but that her actions put him in harm's way.

When it comes to the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, the CDC has long confirmed that it is safe and effective.

"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.

What got Ethan's vaccination quest noticed was his November post on the discussion website Reddit: "My parents are kind of stupid and don't believe in vaccines".

The spread of measles is exacerbated by what the CDC describes as "U.S. communities with pockets of unvaccinated people".

In Tennessee, the measles vaccination rate for kindergartners is 96.9 percent. "The only way to protect against measles is to get vaccinated".

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