Child of Anti-Vaxxer Speaks to Congress After Receiving Immunizations

Teen Who Had Himself Vaccinated Named Facebook As The Source Of His Anti Vaxx Mom's Misinformation

Image from @ethan_Joseph16 Twitter

Ethan Lindenberger made headlines past year after getting vaccinated at the age of 18 against the wishes of his anti-vaxxer mother.

"I grew up understanding my mother believed vaccines are risky, as she would speak openly about her views both online and in person", the high schooler said Tuesday in testimony before a Senate hearing on contagious disease outbreaks.

Lindenberger, a high school senior, told Senate lawmakers that he grew up understanding his mother's beliefs, but that "seeds of doubt were planted and questions arose because of the backlash my mother would receive". But in December, defying his mother, he went and got inoculated, a rebellion that earned him an invitation to Congress. "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.

Pressure to boost vaccinations has surged amid the worst measles outbreaks in years in several U.S. states including Washington, where the governor has declared a state of emergency.

A U.S. Senate committee invited him to share his story during a hearing that discussed what's driving outbreaks in parts of the country, mostly blaming it on those who don't get vaccinated.

A new study released Monday concluded the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine does not increase the risk of autism and does not trigger autism in children who are at risk.

At last week's hearing, held by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC, said, "I do believe that parents' concerns about vaccines leads to undervaccination, and most of the cases that we're seeing are in unvaccinated communities".

Lindenberger claimed that most of his mother's misinformation came from social media groups.

According to the latest federal government statistics, 206 individual cases of measles have been recorded in 11 states so far.

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

He explained his mother was sceptical of any information published by leading health bodies, such as the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, turning instead to online anti-vaxx groups. The boy's mother, however, said her 7-year-old already had his shots, so they need not worry.

Some members of the audience erupted into applause when Kentucky Sen. "But I still do not favor giving up on liberty for a false sense of security".

All states require children to get an MMR vaccination prior to entering kindergarten. Bill Cassidy responded to Paul and referenced how there are some vaccine requirements in place, such as in hospitals.

And while mom Jill Wheeler told Undark that her son's decision was "a slap in the face", Ethan's testimony comes amid increasing concern about the spread of misinformation surrounding vaccination, as the number of unvaccinated American children rises. He and other witnesses pointed out that communities become vulnerable to preventable infections when not enough people have been vaccinated, a concept known as herd immunity. "Now, if you're such a believer in liberty that you do not wish to be vaccinated, then there should be a effect, and that is that you can not infect other people".

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