‘God knows how I’m still alive’: Teenager, 18, finally gets vaccinations and attacks his anti-vaxxer parents for believing shots cause brain damage and autism – as outbreak of measles sweep the country
- Ethan Lindenberger, from Ohio, rebelled against parents anti-vaccine beliefs
- His mother described decision to get shots insulting and a ‘slap in the face’
- It comes as an outbreak of measles has caused a state of emergency in the US
A teenager has finally received vaccinations that he should have had as a young child and criticized his parents for refusing to give them to him.
Ethan Lindenberger, 18, from Norwalk, Ohio, has now had shots to immunize him against six diseases including mumps and hepatitis.
His parents refused to give them to him because they are part of the anti-vaxxer movement which believes that vaccinations cause illnesses such as autism.
However, Ethan decided to have the shots when he turned 18 because he came to the conclusion that the overwhelming scientific evidence is that they do work.
His mother, Jill Wheeler, who owns a children’s theater company, described the move as ‘insulting’ and a ‘slap in the face’.
Ethan Lindenberger, Norwalk, Ohio, 18, was denied shots for diseases such as rubella, mumps and hepatitis growing up because of his mother had read debunked online theories
Ethan with mother and six siblings. Jill Wheeler (top centre) described the move as insulting and a ‘slap in the face’
The Stars Who Have Supported The Anti-Vax Movement
Andrew Wakefield and Elle Macpherson
Elle Macpherson, 51, has struck up an unlikely romance with the father of the anti-vaxxer movement Andrew Wakefield, 61.
Wakefield was banned from practicing medicine in Britain eight years ago after claiming the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine causes autism and bowel disease.
The General Medical Council stated his research had shown a ‘callous disregard’ for children’s health.
Elle has a penchant for alternative health practices and lives on ‘wellness shakes’, a passion she reportedly shares with Wakefield.
President Donald Trump has tweeted on more than 20 occasion suggesting that he believes Wakefileld’s theory about a link between vaccinations and autism.
In 2014, he Tweeted: ‘If I were President I would push for proper vaccinations but would not allow one time massive shots that a small child cannot take – AUTISM.’
President Donald Trump
Robert De Niro
De Niro, whose son has autism, approved the controversial documentary Vaxxed to be screened at Tribeca Film Festival.
It was eventually pulled after backlash from the scientific community. The film was directed by Andrew Wakefield.
Robert De Niro
In 2009, Jim Carrey said that vaccines haven’t really been studied for safety.
He said: ‘The truth is that no one without a vested interest in the profitability of vaccines has studied all 36 of them in depth.’
In June 2015 he took to Twitter stating that ‘California Gov says yes to poisoning more children with mercury and aluminum in mandatory vaccines. This corporate fascist must be stopped’.
He went on to call the CDC ‘corrupt,’ but also explained that he isn’t against all vaccinations. ‘I am not anti-vaccine. I am anti-thimerosal, anti-mercury. They have taken some of the mercury laden thimerosal out of vaccines. NOT ALL!,’ he tweeted.
Carrey’s ex-girlfriend McCarthy may be the most vocal anti-vaxxer celebrity. She believes her son’s autism was caused by vaccinations.
She said: ‘I don’t think it was just the MMR shot that caused any kind of trigger with autism. I think it was a compilation of so many shots to a kid that obviously had some autoimmune disorders.’
In 2008, Charlie Sheen and Denise Richards were tangled in a legal dispute regarding the vaccination of their children Lola and Sam.
Sheen stated that he did not consent to allow a Beverly Hills doctor to give his daughters the MMR vaccine.
The actor was reportedly furious when a pediatrician immunized his daughters.
He demanded he no longer treat them and paid a bill of $380 in nickels.
The mother-of-seven said: ‘It was like him spitting on me, saying ‘You don’t know anything, I don’t trust you with anything. You don’t know what you’re talking about. You did make a bad decision and I’m gonna go fix it’.’
It comes as an outbreak of measles were confirmed in ten states and a public health emergency was declared in an anti-vaccination ‘hot spot’ in Portland, Oregon, last month.
Growing up, Ethan said his parents would tell him about the negative effects of getting vaccinated – including that they could cause brain damage and autism.
But it wasn’t until speaking with friends that he realized he was the only one out of his peer group to not have had the life-saving vaccinations.
The teenager ended up missing out on shots for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), chickenpox and even polio – a disease that can cause paralysis and lead to death.
Ethan said his mother was influenced by theories such as the work of discredited physician Andrew Wakefield and his study linking the MMR vaccine to autism.
Ms Wheeler said: ‘I did not immunize him because I felt it was the best way to protect him and keep him safe.
‘The oral vaccine started giving people polio. And it went from almost completely eradicated, to the numbers were shooting, sky-rocketing back up, from immunizations.’
The teen decided to do some research and presented new information to his mother to try and change her mind, including a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that debunked the autism myth.
Ethan told NPR: ‘Her response was simply ‘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 said his mother ‘kind of fell into this echo chamber, and got more and more misinformation’.
Ethan says that his father was less harsh about his decision despite having the same beliefs as his mother. He told him that now he was 18 he ‘could do what he wanted’.
‘I’m a very obedient child,’ Lindenberger said. ‘I don’t really try and go against my mom. Even though I’m 18, I don’t pull that card.’
Last year, Ethan asked for advice on how to get vaccinated on Reddit. He wrote: ‘God knows how I’m still alive’.
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.
Ms Wheeler says that her experience with Ethan has convinced her to start talking to her younger children about exempting them from vaccinations.
She said: ‘It has opened my eyes to say ‘I better educate them now. Not wait until they’re 18.’
Ethan said he has also tried to discuss the issue with his siblings and has gotten mixed reactions. His brother, 16, wants to get shots but his sister, 14, agreed with their mother.
Since Ethan is now legally an adult his parents cannot stop him from getting vaccinations.
However there are no federal laws regulating the issue for minors who wish to get shots and it varies between different states.
States often allow parents to exempt their children from vaccinations due to religious and sometimes even personal or philosophical reasons.
In Ohio, where Ethan lives, the age of consent to vaccinations is 18 and parents have the right to make medical decisions for their children.
The state allows parents to exempt their children, and Ms Wheeler said she hasn’t received much ‘push back’ after her decision was for personal reasons.
Non-medical exemptions from vaccinations are seeing an increase in states such as Oregon, Idaho, and North Dakota, putting those areas at risk of a disease outbursts.
It comes as a measles outbreak in an anti-vaccine community in Washington state has been declared a public health emergency by health officials.
So far, 23 cases of the highly contagious disease have been confirmed in Clark County since January 1, according to a Clark County Public Health report published on Tuesday.
Twenty of the cases are in children who have not been vaccinated. Eighteen of the cases are in children age 10 and younger.
Many parents are citing belief-based reasons rather than medical exemptions for choosing not to vaccinate their children.
Clark County – which sits across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon – has led Oregon officials to warn residents about potential areas of exposure.
People infected with the virus have visited several locations including elementary schools, high schools, churches, urgent care facilities, a Costco and a Dollar Tree.
Measles is a highly contagious infection caused by the measles virus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends children receive the first dose at 12 to 15 months old and the second dose at four to six years old.
The vaccine is about 97 percent effective. But those who are unvaccinated have a 90 percent chance of catching measles if they breathe the virus in, the CDC says.
Before the measles vaccine was available, more than 500,000 cases were diagnosed in the US every year, with about 500 annual deaths.
Growing up, Ethan (left) said his parents would tell him about the negative effects of getting vaccinated – including that they could cause brain damage and autism
IS ANDREW WAKEFIELD’S DISCREDITED AUTISM RESEARCH TO BLAME FOR LOW MEASLES VACCINATION RATES?
Andrew Wakefield’s discredited autism research has long been blamed for a drop in measles vaccination rates
In 1995, gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield published a study in The Lancet showing children who had been vaccinated against MMR were more likely to have bowel disease and autism.
He speculated that being injected with a ‘dead’ form of the measles virus via vaccination causes disruption to intestinal tissue, leading to both of the disorders.
After a 1998 paper further confirmed this finding, Wakefield said: ‘The risk of this particular syndrome [what Wakefield termed ‘autistic enterocolitis’] developing is related to the combined vaccine, the MMR, rather than the single vaccines.’
At the time, Wakefield had a patent for single measles, mumps and rubella vaccines, and was therefore accused of having a conflict of interest.
Nonetheless, MMR vaccination rates in the US and the UK plummeted, until, in 2004 the then-editor of The Lancet Dr Richard Horton described Wakefield’s research as ‘fundamentally flawed’, adding he was paid by attorneys seeking lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers.
The Lancet formally retracted Wakefield’s research paper in 2010.
Three months later, the General Medical Council banned Wakefield from practicing medicine in Britain, stating his research had shown a ‘callous disregard’ for children’s health.
On January 6 2011, The British Medical Journal published a report showing that of the 12 children included in Wakefield’s 1995 study, at most two had autistic symptoms post vaccination, rather than the eight he claimed.
At least two of the children also had developmental delays before they were vaccinated, yet Wakefield’s paper claimed they were all ‘previously normal’.
Further findings revealed none of the children had autism, non-specific colitis or symptoms within days of receiving the MMR vaccine, yet the study claimed six of the participants suffered all three.
Rise in anti-vaxxers risks disease outbreaks
Non-medical exemptions from childhood vaccinations are rising in some areas of the United States – creating a risk of disease outbreaks.
Research has found an increase in the number of kindergartners with exemptions in 12 states.
Idaho had eight of the 10 highest exemption rates of all states in the study group.
Camas County, the second least populous county in the state, had the highest rate, with nearly 27 percent of kindergartners having a documented exemptions.
Utah’s Morgan County was 10th, with a rate of almost 15 percent.
Currently, 7 states allow parents to exempt their children from receiving a vaccine if it contradicts their religious beliefs, and 18 states permit philosophical exemptions based on moral, personal or other beliefs.
California allows minors as young as 12 to consent to vaccinations for hepatitis B, along with the vaccine for HPV, a major cause of cervical and other cancers.
In Alabama and Oregon, wider statutes allow minors aged 14 and 15, respectively, to consent to their own health care.
But most states do not have regulations and laws for immunizations.
But here have been some moves to expand minor’s rights regarding preventative care — which would include contraception and vaccinations.
In 2017, the Texas legislature introduced a bill that would have allowed minors aged 14 and older to consent to vaccinations for cancer prevention.
Source: National School of Tropical Medicine
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