NORWALK, Ohio– A Norwalk teen is heading to Capitol Hill to speak about the importance of vaccinations; Oddly enough, the 18-year-old just received his shots.
Ethan Lindenberger made national headlines last month for his Reddit post inquiring about getting vaccinated, an act in defiance of his mother who identifies with the anti-vaccine community.
“I would never have thought when making that post and writing it up that a couple of months later I’d be speaking in front of a Senate Committee,” Lindenberger said at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.
The teen will reportedly be speaking before a Senate Committee on a panel titled, “Vaccines Save Lives: What is Driving Preventable Disease Outbreaks?”
Lindenberger said he will also speak about how misinformation surrounding the topic from a personal experience.
“My mom thinks it’s dangerous that changes could be made and so she’s not super excited,” Lindenberger said.
Jill Wheeler, Ethan’s mother, said she believes in a parent’s right to opt of vaccinating their children. It’s a decision she made for her family for many years.
Ohio is one of more than a dozen states that allows immunization exemptions because of personal beliefs.
“The government gets more and more and more involved in what should be personal rights that are being ripped from us,” Wheeler said.
“Ethan has had no education at all in this, none! Again, he was asking three months ago where to go to get vaccinated and now he’s sitting on a committee voicing his opinion for research he’s done on the Internet?”
Ethan’s older brother Isaac said he plans to travel to Washington D.C. for support, in hopes of finding middle ground.
“My belief is that there can be a compromise between the pro-vax community and the anti-vax community, and that lies in individual liberty and personal choice,” Isaac Lindenberger said.
Wheeler expressed frustration she was not directly informed about the trip by those who arranged travel. She said she will not be traveling because of work constraints and the fact she was not invited to speak on the panel.
“There are dangers when you get vaccinations. There are going to be dangers when you don’t get vaccinations,” Wheeler said.
Lindenberger still has several months before his high school graduation and said he hopes his opinions expressed on the panel can lead to understanding about an issue that has caused so much division.
“All I hope after this is my story contributes to a discussion and a dialogue where we can find some good solutions and changes potentially, and that in the future misinformation does not spread and people will stay safe.”