Ethan Lindenberger, 18, testified before Congress today about the misinformation surrounding vaccines. Lindenberger’s story is unique because he comes from an anti-vaccine family and grew up believing the misinformation that his mother relayed to him. But as he grew older, the backlash he saw his mother receive for her views caused him to start questioning things.
As measles outbreaks popped up around the country, Lindenberger’s story went viral for the fact that he actually went and got vaccinated on his own after a post he put up on Reddit got huge amounts of attention. In the post, he asked for advice on how to get vaccinated.
“My parents are kind of stupid and don’t believe in vaccines,” he wrote. “Now that I’m 18, where do I go to get vaccinated? Can I get vaccinated at my age?”
He received an overwhelming response, and in December he went to the Ohio Department of Health and got a handful of standard vaccinations that prevent hepatitis A, hepatitis B, influenza and HPV.
In his testimony on Tuesday, Lindenberger said his decision came in spite of being conditioned by his mother to believe otherwise.
“I went my entire life without numerous vaccines against diseases such as measles, chickenpox or even polio,” Lindenberger said. “I grew up understanding my mother’s beliefs that vaccines are dangerous.”
Lindenberger clarified that his mother’s beliefs were based in a combination of fear and love, which was seized upon by anti-vaccine groups to manipulate her.
He didn’t mince words when explaining how his mother came to her belief system and placed the blame squarely on social media platforms that amplify anti-vaccine groups.
“These sources which spread disinformation should be the primary concern of the American people,” he said, adding that “almost 80 percent of people, according to the Pew Research Center, turn to the internet for health-related questions.”
Featured image via screen grab