Teens of anti-vaxxer parents are taking a shot at immunizing themselves.
At least three teenagers raised by parents who are against vaccinations have asked Reddit for help in getting themselves immunized, the Washington Post reports, after doing their own vaccination research online has led them to worry about their health.
They include Ethan Lindenberger, an 18-year-old from Norwalk, Ohio, who started a thread just before last Thanksgiving with the subject line, “My parents are kind of stupid and don’t believe in vaccines. Now that I’m 18, where do I go to get vaccinated? Can I get vaccinated at my age?”
He wrote that, “my parents think vaccines are some kind of government scheme,” and, “because of their beliefs I’ve never been vaccinated for anything, god knows how I’m still alive.”
His post was upvoted by more than 21.3K readers, and drew more than a thousand comments offering advice about navigating the health-care system, as well as recommendations for pharmacy chains and urgent-care centers that provide vaccinations, and the CDC’s recommended immunization schedule for kids and teens.
Lindenberger’s mother, Jill Wheeler, is part the antivaccination movement that has been calling the safety and necessity of immunizations into question for “religious reasons, personal beliefs or philosophical reasons, safety concerns, and a desire for more information from health-care providers,” according to a 2016 report.
Wheeler lamented to online science magazine Undark that her son’s Reddit post “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.’” She believes that there are autism risks from vaccines a concern shared by many anti-vaxxers, and perpetuated by celebrities such as Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey, that is based on a 1998 study that has been widely discredited and was even retracted by Lancet last year.
Still, 17 states, including Washington, Oregon, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas, allow parents exemptions from vaccinating their children for philosophical or personal reasons, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, while another 30 states allow parents to opt out of the shots for religious reasons.
A minor in Washington who didn’t identify their name or gender also posted on Reddit last month that their mother “refuses to budget” on her anti-vaxx position, even though the teen wants to be fully vaccinated. “I don’t know what I am vaccinated against, and I don’t know what vaccines are currently available to me. All I know is that she declined any vaccine that contained mercury (which to my knowledge, is quite a few.) I feel personally enraged by this,” the teen wrote, asking the community what options he or she has. The comments noted that under Washington state law, any minor 13 and older has the right to outpatient treatment — such as getting vaccines — without the consent of their parents. And vaccines.gov also has an online search tool for finding where to go to get vaccinated.
And a Minnesota 15-year-old also asked Reddit for guidance in getting vaccinated without their anti-vaxxer mother’s consent.
The proportion of young kids who aren’t getting inoculations has roughly quadrupled over the past decade and a half, according to a recent CDC report. As a result, about 47,000 children (or 1.3%) born in 2015 hadn’t been vaccinated by 2017, compared with just 0.3% of kids in 2001 — even though the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends routine vaccination by age 2 against “14 potentially serious illnesses,” including polio, the measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis B and varicella.
Now measles outbreaks in the Pacific Northwest and Georgia have some families rushing their pediatricians and area clinics in search of the vaccines, Kaiser Health News reported, with orders for two types of measles vaccines in Clark County, Washington, up almost 500% in January compared with the same time last year after at least 56 cases of the highly contagious virus were reported in Washington and Oregon. The outbreaks have led to lawmakers introducing a bill that would no longer allow children to be exempted from vaccinations due to personal or philosophical reasons.
Lindenberger posted last month that he has since received his vaccines, although he is now concerned about his four younger siblings, who range in age from 2 to 16.