The measles outbreak up in the pacific northwest is bringing to light just how urgent a public health crises the anti-vaxxer movement is. Somehow, there are some Americans who have gotten so well-educated, and have gotten just comfortable enough financially to take super-dumb risks with their children’s health that the overwhelming majority of their grandparents would have been horrified to take with their parents, who in turn vaccinated them. The end result is that thanks to some very gullible people making some very problematic choices, if we don’t stem the tide of anti-vaxxer disinformation’s effect on people, diseases that eradicated could come roaring back.
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Apparently, if you do come across an anti-vaxxer in your online travels who seems open to being talked back from the abyss of dangerous ignorance, you can send them over to Reddit, and they might just have a Come to Science moment and get vaccinated. It’s already happened once that we know of.
The BBC recently reported on the story of Ethan Lindenberger. He went to Reddit and asked if he could get vaccinated without his mother’s permission. At the time, Ethan was not of legal age, and he lived in Ohio. Under that state’s laws, Ethan would have to wait to vaccinated if his mother would not sign off on it. So, he waited and since gotten five vaccinations.
So why wouldn’t his mother sign off on him getting vaccinated? Because cliches happen for a reason, and sadly, his mother is and was one.
“She believed very wholeheartedly that vaccinations cause these bad side effects,” Mr Lindenberg said.
Let’s just take the time right now to reiterate the facts: there has never been a link discovered between vaccinations and autism. Anyone claiming to have that knowledge is doing this thing called “lying” to you, and you should probably not trust their advice on anything related to your health, no matter how much “research” they tell you they’ve done.
This story is a good example of the value that social media can bring to humanity, and as rare as that happens, that’s quite a feat! Ethan saw on social media that what his mother was stating as fact was being disputed vigorously online, and it caused him to question what she was telling him. Believe it or not, reddit and the Internet may have saved the species from another anti-vaxxer.
“As I grew up I saw there was a large debate when she would share things online. I saw a lot of people disagreed with her.”
Ethan’s concerns about vaccination aren’t just about himself, now that he’s an adult. He has younger siblings that still aren’t vaccinated, and he could pose a much higher risk to them.
“If I get whooping cough I may be able to handle it because I’m older and I have a good immune system, but who’s to say I don’t cough on my two-year-old sister?” he asked.
If there’s any “downside” to this story, it’s that poor Ethan has felt the need to defend his mother from online bullying because of things he himself said about her anti-vaxx beliefs on reddit threads. Of course it proves that he’s a good son, but Ethan also shouldn’t feel that bad about saying that being anti-vaxx is irrational; because it’s completely irrational to not vaccinate your children based on a non-existent link between autism and vaccination.
“When I went on Reddit I expressed a lot of displeasure with my mum, I didn’t think it would go anywhere, I thought my mum was irrational, I was upset and I said some things I shouldn’t have,”he said on BBC World Service radio programme OS.
“I had to apologise for some of the stuff I said on Reddit, where I said she was irrational, crazy, dumb – because I was upset, I didn’t expect to be in the public eye and having to protect my mum. It’s not fair to her… she has done her own research.”
Sorry Ethan, but your mom’s “research” led her to an irrational conclusion. But nevertheless, this story has a happy ending so far since Lindenberger’s been getting his vaccinations since he turned 18.
Writer/comedian James Schlarmann is the founder of The Political Garbage Chute and his work has been featured on The Huffington Post. You can follow James on Facebook and Instagram, but not Twitter because he has a potty mouth.
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