Published: Tue, February 12, 2019
Medicine | By Tracy Klein

Anti-vaxxer revolt grows on Reddit among teens

Anti-vaxxer revolt grows on Reddit among teens

Ethan Lindenberger, an 18-year-old high school senior in OH, said he began to fear for his health after reading scientific papers about the benefits of immunizations. The 18-year-old and his parents disagree over whether Ethan should be vaccinated against serious contagious viruses like measles, mumps, chickenpox, polio-or any disease for that matter, since his parents are committed anti-vaxxers. Here's what you need to know.

Washington state is in the midst of yet another measles outbreak, with over 50 cases already and a public health emergency declared in Clark County.

Lindenberger said he listened to what his mother told him about vaccines while growing up and believed it was common practice. Ethan had no idea that he was an outlier among his friends until he spoke to them and discovered that he was the only one who hadn't been vaccinated.

OH is one of 17 states where parents can opt out of vaccinating their children for philosophical reasons.

The anti-vaxxer movement is under scrutiny following a recent measles outbreak in the Pacific Northwest, where 40 cases have been confirmed, mostly in children under the age of 10.

This outbreak prompted doctors to warn about the importance of vaccinations because diseases like the Measles can mean life or death for people who can't get the vaccine.

According to an investigation by KREM-TV, teens under the age of majority are generally prohibited from obtaining shots without their parents' permission in the U.S. There are, however, some exceptions under what is referred to as the "mature minor doctrine", where teens who can prove a certain level of independence such as being emancipated or pregnant, for instance - and are able to find a health care provider willing to give them the shots knowing they could be sued. Anti-vaxxers say the government should not have the right to demand citizens receive such jabs against their will, while some vaccination proponents argue those who opt out of having their kids vaccinated put others at risk. He told NPR that his mother remained defiant, saying, "That's what they want you to think".

'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'.

Ethan Lindenberger, frustrated by years of arguments about his mother's anti-vaccination stance, staged a quiet defection via Reddit.

In November, Lindenberger asked strangers on Reddit, an online message board, where he could go to get up to date with his shots.

The post got more than 1,000 responses including from other unvaccinated teenagers trying to work out how to get shots without their parents consent. He also told guest host John Berman that once he was finally a legal adult he made a decision to get vaccinated, whether or not his parents approved.

"Across the US, minors generally can not consent to their own health care; however, there are several federal and state laws that permit a minor to consent to his or her own medical treatment in specific circumstances, but it does not usually include immunizations".

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