Ethan Lidenberger, an 18-year-old from Norfolk, Ohio, just made the decision to receive his first-ever vaccines for several diseases against his parent’s beliefs.
The young man discussed his decision in an interview with NPR News that was released on Saturday. In the interview, Lindenberger said he had gone without vaccines for diseases like the measles, rubella, mumps and hepatitis for his entire life due to his mother’s anti-vaccine beliefs.
He said that his mother, Jill Wheeler, was influenced by online misinformation, including a much malaigned study that claims certain vaccines could lead to autism and a theory that claims vaccines were linked to brain damage.
Lindenberger said his mother would continually tell him about the negative side effects of vaccines and how they were bad. He also said he thought it was normal for children not to receive vaccines.
But then he realized his other friends and classmates had all been vaccinated. Lindenberger said that’s when he began to do his own research into the matter.
“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.
The 18-year-old said he later approached his mother with research that debunked some of her claims, including a report from the CDC that explained how vaccines did not cause autism.
“Her response was simply ‘that’s what they want you to think,'” Lindenberger said. “I was just blown away that you know, the largest health organization in the entire world would be written off with a kind of conspiracy theory-like statement like that.”
When he could not change his mother’s thinking on the matter, Lindenberger decided to get vaccinated on his own after turning 18 years old.
This story comes at a time when more measles outbreaks have been reported in the Pacific Northwest, which has prompted more concern among minors about whether they are able to use their own consent to obtain vaccines.
In the month of January alone, measles were confirmed in ten states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Washington, according to the CDC.
Washington officials also declared a public health emergency because an outbreak of measles spread across an anti-vaccination “hot spot” near Portland, Oregon, late last month.