Politics

After viral Reddit post, 18-year-old Ethan Lindenberger defies mom and finally gets vaccinated

His initial post, which appeared back in December, garnered thousands of comments. In an interview with the Daily DotEthan said, “People were really supportive, and that was really cool. I had the blessing of Reddit. They were supporting me on a decision my mom freaked out about.” While his insurance ultimately covered the costs, he said people on the site even offered to send him money via PayPal or GoFundMe. 

“When I started looking into it myself, it became very apparent that there was a lot more evidence in defense of vaccinations, in their favor,” Lindenberger said in an interview with NPR’s Scott Simon on Weekend Edition.

Lindenberger’s mother, Jill Wheeler, gave an interview to Undark, an online publication on the intersection of science and society, in which she said his choice to finally get vaccinated was a “slap in the face” and felt like an insult.

In his interview with Fox, the teenager says he and his mother still have a great relationship.

Lindenberger isn’t alone. In September, for example, a poster who identified himself as a 15-year-old from Minnesota made a similar plea on Reddit. This anonymous teenager wanted some guidance in figuring out state laws to get immunizations. A similar post appeared in January, from an apparent underage teenager who said their parent wouldn’t allow vaccines. 

Ethan’s parents aren’t outliers, either. Roughly 10 percent of Americans are against vaccines in some form. For some people, this goes back to myths about autism (which the Centers for Disease Control have debunked) and other ableist notions of vaccines causing disabilities. Vaccines are sometimes linked to conspiracy theories regarding government control or surveillance as well.

If you’re opting out of vaccines for medical reasons, that’s (of course) legal in all 50 states. In 17 states, however, parents can additionally opt out for “philosophical” reasons. In almost all states, you can opt out for religious reasons. 

Vaccines are always a hot-button subject, but with a recent measles outbreak in Washington and Oregon, tensions are extra-high. So far 56 people have confirmed cases of the measles, which can be fatal for children. This is serious enough that it’s been declared a health emergency in Clark County, Washington.

And Ethan? He plans to get the rest of his vaccines soon—and he says he’s going to keep trying to reach his mother, too. 


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