Teen with anti-vax parents gets vaccinated on his 18th birthday


A teenager finally got his first ever vaccinations after his parents told him they caused autism and brain damage - as outbreak of measles sweep across the country.

Ethan Lindenberger, 18, Norwalk, Ohio, slammed his mother for denying him shots for diseases such as mumps and hepatitis because she had read debunked online theories.

The teenager decided to get vaccinated on his own after turning 18 when he was unable to convince his parents that vaccinations do not cause autism.

But his mother, Jill Wheeler, who owns a local children’s theater company, described the move as insulting and a 'slap in the face', according to Undark.


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's mother, Jill Wheeler, described the move as insulting and a 'slap in the face'    

'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 study linking the MMR vaccine to autism.

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   +3
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

 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, Jill wheeler, 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'.

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.

 The mother-of-seven 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, agreeing 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.

Non-medical exemptions form vaccinations are seeing an increase in states such as  Oregon, Idaho, and North Dakota, putting those areas at risk of a disease outbursts.

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