Thursday, 21 March, 2019

Teen tells Senate why he defied his mom to get vaccinated

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Celia Hoffman | 07 March, 2019, 22:28

Paul, himself a former ophthalmologist, stressed that he had personally vaccinated himself and his kids, "but I still don't favor giving up on liberty for a false sense of security". He also pointed out the role social media has played in shaping the antivaccination movement.

"I grew up understanding my mother's beliefs that vaccines were risky", he said. But one senator, Rand Paul, (R-Ky.), struck a defiant note.

Doctors and Congress spent the hearing talking about the importance of vaccines, especially among children. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, who said he knew patients who needed liver transplants because they avoided vaccinations.

Lindenberger became famous after he reached out to a Reddit community to ask if he can still be vaccinated as an adult. "If you're such a believer in liberty that you should not be vaccinated, there should be consequences if you infect others", Cassidy said.

Ethan Lindenberger, 18, of Norwalk, Ohio, drew attention in November for posting a message on Reddit about getting vaccinated at his age and in February he defied his parents' wishes and went through with the vaccination.

"My mother is an anti-vaxx advocate [who] believes that vaccines ... do not benefit the health and safety of society, despite the fact such opinions have been debunked numerous times by the scientific community", Lindenberger told the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

Mr. Lindenberger recalled that as he grew older, he questions his mother why he was not vaccinated, and he was met with misinformation and fake news that his mother read from Facebook groups.

Lindenberger's mother, Jill Wheeler, told The Associated Press that she "didn't agree with anything he said" but was proud of his appearance before the committee. "My entire family could've been vaccinated". He said his younger siblings have not.

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The hearing also covered herd immunity, a tenet of immunology that states the rate of a preventable illness in a population will go down if the rate of vaccination goes up.

There are now at least 206 confirmed measles cases reported across 11 states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas and Washington.

In response, Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest recently made headlines by announcing initiatives to reduce vaccine misinformation on their platforms.

Emory University Professor Saad Omer suggested making vaccine counseling reimbursable, among other possible ways to prevent outbreaks and the spread of misinformation. However, polls have shown public support of vaccine has fallen and according to the CDC, the number of children under 2 who have not received any vaccinations has quadrupled in the past 17 years.

Not only has the US experienced a slew of unsafe measles outbreaks in the past year (there have been 159 confirmed cases across 10 states) but the World Health Organization recently named vaccine hesitancy as one of the top 10 global health threats. A month later, health investigators found out she had lied.

"Many people don't resonate well with data and numbers - they resonate better through stories", Lindenberger explained. About half of them occurred in the Pacific Northwest, leading Washington Gov. Jay Inslee to declare an emergency and the state legislature to propose further restricting, or even eliminating, inoculation exemptions.

Yet not everyone agreed fully with some of the ideas put forth in the hearing, such as mandatory vaccine requirements.

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