Last month, Ethan Lindenberger, a teenager from Ohio, made headlines for defying his mother’s wishes by becoming vaccinated against diseases like HPV, hepatitis A, hepatitis B and influenza for the first time at 18 years old. Lindenberger, one of seven children in his family, was not allowed to get vaccinated as a child due to his mother’s belief that vaccinations are harmful. However, when he turned 18 and became allowed to make decisions regarding his health and medical treatment for himself, Lindenberger decided to do research and take action, gaining support from others online.
The anti-vaxxer argument is one that everyone seems to be familiar with at this point, but, in case you’re not, the rundown goes like this: In 1998, British doctor Andrew Wakefield published a paper discussing a link between the MMR vaccine, autism and bowel disease. Since then, some parents have believed that vaccinating their children will cause them to acquire autism spectrum disorder (ASD, which is not a disorder that can be acquired), so they refrain from vaccinating their children. Instead, thinking their kids would be better off if they got measles, mumps or rubella rather than ASD. Since the paper was published it has been retracted and Wakefield’s medical license has been discredited. So, essentially, parents have been refusing to provide their kids with defenses against hideous diseases in order to avoid a disorder that is in no way linked to vaccines.
Since Lindenberger’s story broke, he has received support from others through the internet, as well as from scientists and doctors in favor of vaccinations. He has now spoken with multiple news outlets about his experience and decision to become vaccinated, and has become somewhat of an advocate in favor of vaccines. Lindenberger, while not an expert on the topic, has been able to reach out and share his opinions and experiences on why you should get vaccinated with other teenagers and adults who are thinking about making the same decision for themselves. In doing so, he has hopefully been able to convince others to make our communities safer by reducing the risk of many antiquated, dangerous diseases coming back.
However, Lindeberger’s case has opened up another debate besides whether or not children should be vaccinated. Instead, now many people are also wondering whether or not children should be able to make this decision for themselves before the age of 18. Due to laws in Ohio, Lindenberger was not able to receive vaccinations without parent consent before he became a legal adult, however he may have wanted to do so before this time. Science supports the idea that vaccinations protect you from many harmful diseases and do not cause any additional disorders, so shouldn’t children have the choice whether to get them? We face the daily choice to wash our hands or cover our mouths and noses when we sneeze, both of which help keep our communities healthier and don’t pose any risk to the individual. Since vaccines are harmless, it would follow that children should have the right to choose that they would like to be protected at a younger age.
Obviously, infants and toddlers are not able to make these types of decisions for themselves, and unfortunately this means that many parents will continue to forgo vaccinations. However, if a child shows an interest or desire to become vaccinated when they become old enough to know what this means, parents should allow them to do so.
If a person is old enough to drive a car, which can definitely put both themselves and others at risk, they are more than capable of making informed decisions about their own medical care. Ethan Lindenberger made the decision to become vaccinated despite what his parents believed, making the world safer for both himself and others around him. For those that are unsure of whether to become vaccinated, or don’t know the research behind it, it is important to follow Ethan’s lead and take control of your personal health. Otherwise, occurrences of these preventable diseases will continue to rise, and those who are unable to advocate for themselves due to their age may not be as lucky as Ethan in making it to his 18th birthday.
Emma Hungaski is the associate opinion editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.