Eighteen-year-old Ethan Lindenberger appeared before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Tuesday to talk about how he made a decision to get vaccinated against the wishes of his anti-vaccine mother.
"I grew up understanding my mother believed vaccines are unsafe, as she would speak openly about her views both online and in person", the high schooler said Tuesday in testimony before a Senate hearing on contagious disease outbreaks. "Certain individuals and organizations which spread misinformation and instill fear into the public for their own gain selfishly put countless people at risk", he said.
He said as he approached high school, he began to think critically for himself and presented information, including statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that challenged his mother's anti-vaccination ideas. "I have seen people who have not been vaccinated who have required liver transplantation because they were not, and who have ended up with awful diseases for no other reason than they did not understand vaccination was important".
Pressure to boost vaccinations has surged amid the worst measles outbreaks in years in several U.S. states including Washington, where the governor has declared a state of emergency.
Measles was declared eliminated in the U.S.in 2000.
Lindenberger, testifying alongside distinguished health experts and officials, said "it was a slow progression to start to see evidence" of the effectiveness and safety of vaccines. There have been 206 confirmed cases of measles reported in the USA, spanning 11 states, the CDC reports. In the past, Paul has questioned whether vaccines should be required, and he's parroted anti-vaccine conspiracy theories, such as in 2015, when he said he'd "heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines".
"There is a lot of misleading and incorrect information about vaccines that circulates online, including through social media", Alexander said in a statement.
All states require children to get an MMR vaccination prior to entering kindergarten.
Lindenberger, in the YouTube video, said his testimony would address "preventable diseases, spreading and outbreaks of preventable diseases, as well as addressing misinformation that causes these outbreaks".
Some members of the audience erupted into applause when Kentucky Sen. In fact, he added he believes his 16-year-old son Noah eventually will get his shots.
"With my mother, it wasn't she didn't have the information, she was manipulated into believing it", high school senior Ethan Lindenberger said in the hearing. "But I still do not favor giving up on liberty for a false sense of security".
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was quickly rebuked by his colleagues for the stance.
When it comes to the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, the CDC has long confirmed that it is safe and effective.
"I want to speak directly to the parents who have children with serious health issues and who have been attending our hearings in Washington state and are watching this hearing today", health secretary Wiesman said at the hearing.
All in all, more than 200 people in 11 states have been infected with measles this year.