Un­vac­ci­nated teens fact-check­ing par­ents, get­ting shots

The Buffalo News - - NATIONAL NEWS - By Alex Hor­ton

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.

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