Unvaccinated teens fact-checking parents, getting shots
Ethan Lindenberger, frustrated by years of arguments about his mother’s anti-vaccination stance, staged a quiet defection via Reddit.
The Norwalk, Ohio, teenager needed advice, he said, on how to inoculate himself against infectious disease and his family’s dogma. At 18, he was old enough, Lindenberger explained. He wanted to get vaccinated. But he didn’t know how.
“My parents think vaccines are some kind of government scheme,” Lindenberger wrote days before Thanksgiving. “But, because of their beliefs I’ve never been vaccinated for anything, god knows how I’m still alive.” As anti-vaccination movements metastasize amid outbreaks of dangerous disease, internet-savvy teenagers are fact-checking their parents’ decisions in a digital health reawakening – and seeking their own treatments in bouts of family defiance.
In three states, at least three selfdescribed teenagers told Reddit they have a common problem: Their parents are staunchly opposed to vaccination, and they fear for their health if they do not take action. Lindenberger’s post drew more than 1,000 comments, including detailed information on navigating the health care system.
The tension over vaccines started years ago, the teen told the Washington Post on Sunday, after he began to notice his mother posting anti-vaccination videos on social media. His friends were getting vaccinated. So what was happening in his house?
Lindenberger read scientific papers and journals. He pulled up Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studies on his phone at the dinner table, hoping his mother would relent and get him and his four younger siblings – now ages 16, 14, 5 and 2 – vaccinated.
“I looked into it, it was clear there was way more evidence in defense of vaccines,” he said. His mother resisted and claimed there were autism risks from vaccines, a common argument used by anti-vaccination groups that has been widely debunked.
In Ohio and 16 other states, parents can opt out of required vaccines for philosophical reasons. All but three states allow the exemption on religious grounds. All 50 allow it for medical reasons. Late last year, Lindenberger, now a high school senior, confided in a pastor, who suggested he was legally free to make decisions.
On Dec. 17, he walked into an Ohio Department of Heath office in Norwalk and received vaccines for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, influenza and HPV, according to a shot record viewed by the Post.