A teenager who made headlines after defying his anti-vaxx mother testified in front of Congress on Tuesday, saying his mother’s misinformation stemmed from social media.
Ethan Lindenberger, a teenager from of Norwalk, Ohio, traveled to Washington, D.C. to speak at a health, education, labor and pension committee hearing Tuesday on a panel alongside health experts including John Wiesman, Washington state’s Secretary of Health.
He said as he approached high school and questioned why he wasn’t vaccinated, his mother often met him with misinformation she found online and in social media groups — never trusting health officials. He recalled showing his mother articles from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and her replying with skepticism.
“That’s what they want you to think,” she would tell him, Lindenberger said Tuesday.
In a question and answer portion of the hearing, Lindenberger named Facebook as one of the sites his mother used often to wrongly suggest vaccines could cause harm. He also said she has posted videos with fake news on the site.
He said it’s with “respect and love” he disagrees with his mother. Learning to research and debate in high school, Lindenberger, 18, said he learned “there always seems to be two sides to a discussion … This is not true for the vaccine debate.”
This isn’t the first time Facebook has been accused of being a platform for fake health news. Responding to backlash last month, Facebook said it has “taken steps” to reduce misinformation around anti-vaxx posts.
More: Facebook may hide anti-vaxx posts after it’s accused of spreading fake health news
The committee hearing comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention monitors six measles outbreaks across the nation, including in Clark County Washington where 70 confirmed cases have been reported.
Lindenberger reached out to Reddit users a few months ago to ask whether he could be vaccinated as an adult.
After his thread went viral, he told “Good Morning America” he never received vaccines for hepatitis, polio, measles, mumps, rubella or chickenpox. In December of last year, he caught up on his missed immunizations.
People choosing not to vaccinate have become a global health threat in 2019, the World Health Organization reported. The CDC recognized that the number of children who aren’t being vaccinated by 24 months old has been gradually increasing.
More: UNICEF on alarming global surge in measles: ‘The real infection is misinformation’
More: Pinterest is blocking all searches on vaccinations to stop spread of misinformation
This week, another study showed the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine (MMR) does not increase the risk of autism and does not trigger autism in children who are at risk. This research adds to already available studies saying the same.
More: Vaccines don’t cause autism, yet another study finds
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