If you missed the story in the news about the unvaccinated young man who, when turning 18 years old, defied his mother’s wishes and got himself immunized, Jamie Ducharme gets you caught up:
Lindenberger, who said his mother is an anti-vaccine advocate who adheres to the widely discredited idea that vaccines cause autism and brain damage, was not immunized against diseases including measles, chicken pox and polio until December of last year, after turning 18 and seeking care of his own accord. Lindenberger’s story has attracted widespread attention as the resurgence of preventable illnesses like measles brings the dangers of vaccine avoidance into clear focus.
The high school senior spoke Tuesday as part of a Senate hearing on vaccines and preventable disease outbreaks, along with doctors and public health officials. In his remarks, Lindenberger described learning about the scientific evidence that says vaccines are a safe and effective way to prevent disease, and do not cause autism. (On Monday, another major study on the subject found no association between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and autism.)
On Monday, we took a look at that large study poking another gaping hole in the MMR-causes-autism myth. Ducharme says Lindenberger doesn’t blame his mother as much as he blames “the sites and organizations that peddle falsehoods” on social media. Appearing in front of senators, the young man said he got his information not from Facebook, but from credible sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO):
“For certain individuals and organizations that spread this misinformation, they instill fear into the public for their own gain selfishly, and do so knowing that their information is incorrect,” Lindenberger said. “For my mother, her love, affection and care as a parent was used to push an agenda to create a false distress, and these sources which spread misinformation should be the primary concern of the American people.”
The young man may have got caught up on his vaccines just in the nick of time. Elizabeth Cohen tells the story of another man who wasn’t so lucky:
Three years ago, Joshua Nerius, a 30-year-old software product manager in Chicago, developed a high fever and a rash. Doctors prescribed antibiotics, but Nerius just got sicker and sicker.
Joshua went to the emergency room, where a doctor said it looked a lot like the measles. Had he been vaccinated as a child?
Nerius texted the question to his mother. She sent back a thumbs-down emoji.
His next stop was an isolation room at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
And, boy, was he sick: High fever; rash all over; twenty-five pound weight loss; so weak he couldn’t walk without assistance; took months to recover:
“I felt horrible,” he said. “It took a serious toll.”
He thinks about the current measles outbreak, which started in Washington state, where dozens of children have suffered because their parents chose not to vaccinate them.
He knows that their suffering — and his own three years ago — could have been avoided.
“It makes me so angry. My parents thought they were doing the right thing. They were persuaded by the anti-vaxers,” he said.
Cohen says Nerius doesn’t blame his parents as much as the persuasive messengers of flawed, fact-free, anti-vaccine propaganda:
“The science on this has been settled. It’s been solved. When I look at where we are today, with people who are willfully deciding to ignore the facts, it really frustrates me,” Nerius said. “I just don’t understand the mindset of people who want to spread fear.”
If anyone doubts the serious toll measles can take, the CDC is ready to set the record straight:
In the decade before 1963 when a vaccine became available, nearly all children got measles by the time they were 15 years of age. It is estimated 3 to 4 million people in the United States were infected each year. Also each year, among reported cases, an estimated 400 to 500 people died, 48,000 were hospitalized, and 1,000 suffered encephalitis (swelling of the brain) from measles.
Get your kids immunized against all childhood diseases. Make sure you are up-to-date on your vaccines as well.