Ethan Lindenberger, the teen who defied his mother’s wishes and caught the media’s attention by getting himself vaccinated when he turned 18, testified before Congress Tuesday about his decision.
“I grew up understanding my mother’s beliefs that vaccines were dangerous,” he said at the hearing in front of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. “She would speak openly about these views. Both online and in person she would voice her concerns and these beliefs were met with strong criticism. Over the course of my life seeds of doubts were planted and questions arose because of the backlash my mother would receive.”
As he entered high school, Lindenberger began studying the issue more seriously and it wasn’t long before he learned there was no credible scientific evidence supporting his mom’s concerns, CBS News reports.
He approached his mother with the facts, but she still disagreed.
“I approached my mother numerous times trying to explain that vaccines are safe and that my family should be vaccinated, approaching even with articles from the CDC explicitly claiming that ideas that vaccines cause autism and extremely dangerous consequences were incorrect,” Lindenberger said.
“That’s what they want you to think,” she told him at one point.
In an interview earlier Tuesday with CNN’s Jim Sciutto and Poppy Harlow explained that he regularly talks to his parents and tries to find ways to call out his anti-vaxxer mom without being disrespectful, Mediaite reports.
He said he mainly worries about his younger siblings and other people who may be exposed to health risks because his parents haven’t vaccinated their children.
At one point Lindenberger was asked if he blames his parents for the surge in diseases that were nearly eradicated by vaccines. He responded that he places blame on the misinformation his parents buy into instead of blaming them personally.
“When you are looking at these sources that spread this information and these lies…it’s very clear that all the information is incorrect, skewed data. Everything is not cited and also there’s a lot of emotional appeals talking about families, children and appealing to a parent’s love, and manipulating that to convince them vaccines are dangerous,” he said. “That’s the issue I take. I have tried to convey to my parents I don’t think they are stupid for believing that, but people are very convincing, and that’s very dangerous.”
It’s crucial to get accurate information out there, Lindenberg said at the hearing, where several health authorities also spoke. The list included John Weisman, Washington state’s Secretary of Health: John G. Boyle, president, and CEO of the Immune Deficiency Foundation; and Saad B. Omer, Professor of Epidemiology and Pediatrics at Emory University.
Measles outbreaks have popped up in 10 states, largely in areas that (surprise, surprise) are anti-vaxxer strongholds, The Big Issue reports. Measles was officially declared eradicated in the U.S. in 2000, but since then, cases of the disease have increased dramatically. In February a “significant” rise in cases was “declared a growing public health threat.”
Which is why Lindenberger spoke to Congress Tuesday. Here’s what he had to say below. In the video following that he explains more.
Featured image by CBS News video