Health

Ethan Lindenberger, teen who defied mother by getting vaccinated, to testify before Congress today – March 5, 2019

You can watch a live video stream of the hearing on this page starting at 10 a.m. ET.


A teen who made headlines after getting vaccinated against his mother’s wishes at age 18 will be sharing his story in front of Congress today. High school senior Ethan Lindenberger will testify before a Senate committee about his decision to defy his mom and get vaccinated. The hearing of the Senate Committee on Health, Education Labor, and Pensions is focusing on the spread of preventable diseases as well as “addressing misinformation that causes these outbreaks.”

Lindenberger grew up thinking it was normal for most kids not to get immunized, but a couple of years ago he began to see how the posts about vaccines his own mother was sharing on social media were dangerous. He said he realized that his parents’ misguided beliefs put his health, and the health of his younger siblings, at risk. 

“I question her judgment, but not her care,” Lindenberger told “CBS This Morning” last month. “You have something like measles, which is a preventable disease that we can vaccinate against, that I and many people believe is coming back because of opinions like the ones that have influenced my mom.”

Lindenberger posted a video on Twitter explaining his plans to testify. 

He will be testifying alongside John Wiesman, Washington state’s secretary of health, John G. Boyle, president and CEO of the  Immune Deficiency Foundation, and two pediatric medical experts.

In November, Lindenberger asked strangers on the online message board Reddit where he could go to get up to date with his shots. His mother, Jill Wheeler, said she was “blown away” when she found out. Lindenberger showed his parents scientific studies that showed vaccines were safe and effective, but his mother remained unconvinced.

“It was just straight up fear of him getting these immunizations and having a bad reaction … I think a lot of people look at this as a straight, black and white answer, and I don’t feel like it is,” Wheeler said. 

Lindenberger is 18 and in Ohio, where the family lives, he’s old enough to get shots without his parents’ permission. In December, he got vaccinated for influenza, hepatitis, tetanus and HPV. His 16-year-old brother, who is considering getting his shots, will have to wait.

Ohio teen defies mother and gets vaccinated

There is no federal law mandating children be immunized but there are state laws, with some exemptions. Only seven states and Washington D.C. allow minors to get vaccinations without parental consent. 

Claims about health risks from vaccines are “based purely on fabrication,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, told CBS News recently. “That’s been proven. There is no association whatsoever between the measles vaccine and autism.”

The mistaken belief in a connection can be traced back to 1998, when a doctor in the U.K. published a now discredited study claiming the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine was linked to autism. His research was found to be based on fraudulent data, the study was retracted, and the doctor lost his medical license. Decades of medical data shows no such link exists. However, the claim spread fear among parents, leading to a small but vocal faction that makes up the current anti-vax movement.

Adding even more evidence, one of the largest studies ever done on the subject was published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine. It looked at all the children born in Denmark over more than a decade and found no connection between the MMR vaccine and autism. It also looked specifically at children at high risk of developing autism, such as those with an autistic sibling, and found that the MMR vaccine does not trigger autism in that group either. 

“The new study, if we needed it, puts to rest once again that there is no association between measles vaccine and autism,” Dr. William Schaffner, professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, told CBS News.

Study finds no evidence of link between measles vaccine and autism

Experts say the latest outbreaks in the Pacific Northwest and New York, as well as ones in recent years such as the 2015 Disneyland outbreak, are a direct result of this anti-vaccine movement

CBS News medical contributor Dr. Tara Narula recommends that parents who have questions about vaccine safety should visit the American Academy of Pediatrics website and HealthyChildren.org, which has information on dozens of studies debunking common myths about vaccines. She also recommends consulting with your health care provider.

The hearing will be live-streamed on Tuesday, March 5 beginning at 10 a.m.  ET at help.senate.gov and in the video player at the top of this page.




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