The current measles outbreak has prompted countless families to vaccinate their children, but some teens have taken their health into their own hands. A growing number of teens have begun to defy their parents’ wishes and seek outlets for vaccinations in order to keep themselves — and others — safe.
When Ohio teen Ethan Lindenberger turned 18, he ensured getting vaccinated was his among his first birthday gifts.
“As I became a teenager and looked into it and decided that the evidence supported vaccines by and large, and that the evidence that they cause autism and brain damage and other misinformed statements weren’t true,” Lindenberger said in an interview with CNN.
In fact, the global measles mortality rate has decreased by over 84% thanks to the introduction of the measles vaccine. The vaccine was once so effective that the CDC claimed the illness was eradicated in the United States as of 2000.
But this number is falling thanks to anti-vax parents. Though the CDC notes that there is no link between vaccinations and autism, Lindenberger — and many other families — was taught that vaccinations were harmful as he was growing up. His parents follow the belief that vaccines can cause autism and that they are a result of a government scheme, according to his Reddit post last November.
While most children are still routinely vaccinated before they go to elementary schools throughout the United States, parents have managed to find loopholes to prevent their children from receiving the necessary vaccination. In fact, 18 states allow parents to prevent the vaccination process due to personal reasons or religious reasons.
“A social movement of public health vaccine opposition has been growing in the United States in recent years. Subsequently, measles outbreaks have also increased,” claims Dr. Peter Hotez of the Baylor College of Medicine.
In spite of their parents’ wishes, more and more teens and young adults have made the move to receive these vital vaccinations. Just like Lindenberger was able to receive help from his viral Reddit post back in November, countless others have managed to rely on community members, online forums, and medical health centers for vaccination advice.
On Feb. 11, the CDC reported that there are 101 cases of measles confirmed throughout the United States with more than half of these cases occurring in Washington State. The brunt of these cases have occurred in children under the age of 10 who have not received the necessary vaccination.
However, the illness is highly contagious and has been seen in adults as well. It’s estimated that employees will spend 37% of their time in meetings, meaning that they’re in close contact with other people. Even a handshake could result in infection should an individual touch their face or mouth after this simple interaction.
Because of the outbreak, the rate of vaccinations this year has almost quintupled compared to 2018. Where only 530 vaccinations were performed in January of 2018, the new year saw more than 3,000 immunizations and the number is only growing.
“Vaccines save lives and are safe and effective. Vaccines are one of the top 10 public health achievements of the last century for the number of lives they’ve saved,” notes Allison Winnike, the president of The Immunization Partnership. “In fact, vaccines are a victim of their own success; so many diseases have been eliminated or eradicated by vaccines that we no longer see the daily heartache of loved ones dying from what were common illnesses like polio, smallpox, and measles.”
As such, many parents are oblivious to the potential threat that these devastating illnesses can cause.
Adults are more likely to spend money on issues that they can see. In fact, it’s estimated that Americans alone will spend around $2.75 billion on cosmetic dentistry in the hope of a healthier looking smile.
Doctors and the CDC hope that increasing accessibility to health care centers and information will stop the spread of the anti-vaccination movement.