Published: Sat, March 09, 2019
Medicine | By Daryl Nelson

Teen vaccine rebel Ethan Lindenberger testifies to US Congress

Teen vaccine rebel Ethan Lindenberger testifies to US Congress

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, a teenager from Norwalk, Ohio, traveled to Washington, D.C., to speak at a health, education, labor and pension committee hearing Tuesday on a panel alongside health experts including John Wiesman, Washington state's secretary of health.

"My mother is an anti-vaxx advocate [who] believes that vaccines... do not benefit the health and safety of society, despite the fact such opinions have been debunked numerous times by the scientific community", Ethan told the Senate committee.

Ethan Lindenberger made national news when he got vaccinated behind his anti-vax parents' backs after turning 18. Ethan Lindenberger, appearing with a panel of doctors, told the committee on March 5 that it's important "to inform people about how to find good information", and to make them realize just how unsafe diseases like measles truly are.

The teenager's testimony comes as the US has faced measles outbreaks in states - including Washington - that have been credited largely to skepticism surrounding vaccinations and unsubstantiated accusations of links between vaccines and autism, according to the website The Hill.

Measles was declared eliminated in the U.S.in 2000. Instead, he attributed her position to misinformation on vaccines that is widely circulated on social media and the Internet.

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". There have been 206 confirmed cases of measles reported in the US, spanning 11 states, the CDC reports.

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

His story made headlines and today Lindenberger, 18, stood before US Congress and speak about just how risky anti-vaxxer misinformation can be, claiming most of his mother's misinformation about vaccines was based on social media posts and anecdotes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a how-to-list for youths ages 7 to 18 who've missed childhood shots.

"I feel like if my mom didn't interact with that information, and she wasn't swayed by those arguments and stories, it could've potentially changed everything", he said.

Some members of the audience erupted into applause when Kentucky Sen. The boy's mother, however, said her 7-year-old already had his shots, so they need not worry. "But I do not favor on giving up on liberty for a false sense of security". Bill Cassidy (R-La.) noted vaccine requirements only apply to children entering school, and exercising individual liberty should not come at the expense of the health of others.

Ethan, who lives with his father and wants to become a pastor, firmly believes his mother had good intentions in refusing to vaccinate her children. "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 you can not infect other people". Countless studies show that vaccines are safe.

Clark County Public Health has added a new location to places people might have been exposed to measles. "The only way to protect against measles is to get vaccinated".

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