(Senate HELP Committee video)

Anti-Vaccine Beliefs ‘Selfishly Put Countless People at Risk,’ Teen Who Defied Mom Tells Senators

The son of an anti-vaccine advocate told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Tuesday that “certain individuals and organizations which spread misinformation and instill fear into the public for their own gain selfishly put countless people at risk.”

Ethan Lindenberger, a senior at Norwalk High School in Ohio, told lawmakers that he got vaccinated against the wishes of his mother. The student gained attention in November by discussing on Reddit his move to get shots despite his “kind of stupid parents.”

“My mother is an anti-vaccine advocate that believes vaccines cause autism, brain damage, and do not benefit the health and safety of society despite the fact such opinions have been debunked numerous times by the scientific community. I went my entire life without vaccinations against diseases such as measles, chicken pox, or even polio. However, in December of 2018, I began catching up on my missed immunizations despite my mother’s disapproval, eventually leading to an international story centered around my decisions and public disagreement with my mother’s views,” Lindenberger said in prepared testimony.

“I remember speaking with my mother about vaccines, and at one point in our discussion she claimed a link exist between vaccines and autism. In response, I presented evidence from the CDC which claimed directly in large bold letters, ‘There is no link between vaccines and autism.’ Within the same article from the CDC on their official website, extensive evidence and studies from the institute of medicine (IOM) were cited,” he said. “Most would assume when confronted with such strong proof, there would be serious consideration that your views are incorrect. This was not the case for my mother, as her only response was, ‘that’s what they want you to think.’”

“…Conversations like these were what reaffirmed the evidence in defense of vaccinations and proved to me, at least on an anecdotal level, that anti-vaccine beliefs are deeply rooted in misinformation. Despite this, a necessary clarification must be made when discussing this misinformation: anti-vaccine individuals do not root their opinions in malice, but rather a true concern for themselves and other people. Although it may not seem to be true because of the serious implications of choosing not to vaccinate, the entire anti-vaccine movement has gained so much traction because of this fear and concern that vaccines are dangerous.”

The student stressed that “the sources which spread misinformation should be the primary concern of the American people.”

“In school, I was pulled out of class every year and told that if I did not receive my shots, I wouldn’t be able to attend my high school. But, every year, I was opted out of these immunizations and, because of current legislation, I was allowed to attend a public high school despite placing my classmates in danger of contracting multiple preventable diseases,” Lindenberger said. “The debate around vaccinations is not centered around information, but instead concerns on the health and safety of society. We must distinguish the difference between a personal view and a medical concern, a safety concern, and the dangers of such rhetoric. The information leading people to fear for their children, for themselves, and for their families is causing outbreaks of preventable diseases.”

“Therefore, combating this information while also working towards legislative changes may help protect our nation from needless deaths. My story highlights this misinformation and how it spreads. 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. This needs to change and I only hope my story contributes to such advancements.”

The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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