NORWALK, OHIO – Even in a pandemic defying an anti-vaccine parent is no small task.
20-year-old Ethan Lindenberger’s public disagreement with his mother who identified with the anti-vaccine community sparked a national discussion on vaccinations and even led to his testimony before the Senate in 2019.
It all began after he got vaccinated at 18 against the wishes of his mother.
Today the focus of Lindenberger’s advocacy is helping to educate young people with a similar family dynamic on the importance of the COVID-19 vaccinations. A goal that can be difficult to accomplish in Ohio, which requires parental consent for juveniles to get vaccinated.
“What I see often from people reaching out to me is anonymous websites like Reddit where they can say ‘Here you have no idea who I am you’ll never hear from me again, but I need some advice,'” said Lindenberger.
A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll shows 18 percent of parents with kids 12 to 15 will get their child the COVID-19 vaccine if it’s required at school. Nearly a quarter that responded said they will not get their child vaccinated.
Since the launch of Vax-a-Million in Ohio vaccinations of some teenage groups has dramatically increased. The contest offers a full ride college scholarship to five young people ages 12 to 17 who are vaccinated and enter the competition.
“That group, the 16- and 17-year-olds, there’s been a 94 percent increase in vaccinations,” said Gov. Mike DeWine Monday.
Lindenberger said he supports the effort but cautions there are teens who would like to get vaccinated but cannot risk the consequences that could come with broaching the issue.
He believes when it comes to a COVID-19 vaccination parental consent should be waived in certain situations so that the teen can get the vaccine.
“It’s a serious pro and con situation if you don’t get vaccinated you and other people are put at risk but if you do in those situations those family structures you could put yourself at risk for other things even homelessness. That’s a sad reality of that family structure and also how fundamentally misinformed some people are,” he said.
Lindenberger said his relationship with his mother strained since their different beliefs on the issue became public. In the years since then he has enrolled in college, gave a speech at the World Health Organizations’ Global Vaccination Summit in Belgium as well as a Ted Talk.