Category: Vaccine Advocates

Who Is Ethan Lindenberger?

As most folks know, Ethan Lindenberger is the Ohio teen who got himself vaccinated over the objections of his mother, who had always believed that vaccines are dangerous.

He recently testified in Washington, D.C. before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Hearing, Vaccines Save Lives: What Is Driving Preventable Disease Outbreaks?

Who Is Ethan Lindenberger?

Not surprisingly, Ethan Lindenberger is getting a lot of attention lately.

Unfortunately, not all of it has been good.

Of course there are conspiracy theories about Ethan Linderberger and his mother…

Along the way to getting vaccinated and a trip to Capitol Hill, he has been attacked on social media from anti-vaccine folks who must see him as some kind of threat.

I remember speaking with my mother about vaccines, and at one point in our discussion she claimed a link existed between vaccines and autism. In response, I presented evidence from the CDC which claimed directly in large bold letters, “There is no link between vaccines and autism.” Within the same article from the CDC on their official website, extensive evidence and studies from the institute of medicine (IOM) were cited. Most would assume when confronted with such strong proof, there would be serious consideration that your views are incorrect. This was not the case for my mother, as her only response was, “that’s what they want you to think.”

Ethan Lindenberger

Now that she sees that “they” have made up conspiracy theories about her own son, will Ethan’s mother understand how the anti-vaccine movement works?

“Conversations like these were what reaffirmed the evidence in defense of vaccinations and proved to me, at least on an anecdotal level, that anti-vaccine beliefs are deeply rooted in misinformation. Despite this, a necessary clarification must be made when discussing this misinformation: anti-vaccine individuals do not root their opinions in malice, but rather a true concern for themselves and other people. Although it may not seem to be true because of the serious implications of choosing not to vaccinate, the entire anti-vaccine movement has gained so much traction because of this fear and concern that vaccines are dangerous.”

Ethan Lindenberger

Who is scaring everyone about vaccines and creating all of this misinformation?

In his testimony, Ethan identified some people that will be familiar to everyone who works to combat anti-vaccine misinformation, including Bob Sears, Del Bigtree, and Larry Cook.

“My story highlights this misinformation and how it spreads. Between social media platforms, to using a parent’s love as a tool, these lies cause people to distrust in vaccination, furthering the impact of a preventable disease outbreak and even contributing to the cause of diseases spreading. This needs to change and I only hope my story contributes to such advancements.”

Ethan Lindenberger

We are lucky that Ethan told his story.

It’s an important story and hopefully everyone who is thinking about skipping or delaying their child’s vaccines will listen to it.

More on Ethan Lindenberger

What Are the Greatest Tricks Anti-Vaccine Folks Use to Persuade Parents to Skip Vaccines?

We are hearing a lot about anti-vaccine misinformation these days.

John Birch (B) and the other anti-vaccine heroes of the day on their way to fight the vaccination monster.
John Birch (B) and the other anti-vaccine heroes of the day on their way to fight the vaccination monster.

And how the anti-vaccine movement is using social media to persuade parents to skip their child’s vaccines, leaving them unprotected.

So how do they do it?

What Are the Greatest Tricks Anti-Vaccine Folks Use to Persuade Parents to Skip Vaccines?

If you want to understand the anti-vaccine movement, the first thing to know is that they have been around for centuries. That they are using social media is of course new, but their messages are basically the same.

They use scare tactics to try and make you believe that:

  1. vaccines are dangerous and injure people
  2. vaccines aren’t necessary because diseases are mild
  3. vaccines don’t even work

And you need all three elements, after all, even if you thought that vaccines were sometimes dangerous, you might want to vaccinate your kids if you thought that vaccines could stop an even more dangerous vaccine-preventable disease, right?

That’s why they keep all of your fear focused on the vaccines!

It is this fear that allows several cognitive biases, heuristics, and logical fallacies to take hold and change your perception of risk into something that is much different from reality.

And that’s maybe the ultimate trick – making you think that the risks of vaccines are greater than the risks of catching a vaccine-preventable disease or even greater than the risks of having a vaccine-preventable disease.

But what about the graphs they have, the autism studies, the vaccine injury stories, Whistleblowers, complaints about saline placebos, the idea that better hygiene and sanitation fixed everything, and all of the claims of toxins and the conspiracy theories about Big Pharma?

Anti-vaccine folks are constantly moving the goalposts

These and every new argument they come up with are easily refuted.

When will you stop listening to them?

“Thank you Chairman Alexander, Senator Murray, and distinguished committee members for the opportunity to speak today. Good morning, everyone. My name is Ethan Lindenberger and I am a senior at Norwalk High School. My mother is an anti-vaccine advocate that believes vaccines cause autism, brain damage, and do not benefit the health and safety of society despite the fact such opinions have been debunked numerous times by the scientific community. I went my entire life without vaccinations against diseases such as measles, chicken pox, or even polio. However, in December of 2018, I began catching up on my missed immunizations despite my mother’s disapproval, eventually leading to an international story centered around my decisions and public disagreement with my mother’s views.”

Testimony of Ethan Lindenberger Student at Norwalk High school Before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee March 5th, 2019

Should kids really have to hope that they grow up without getting a vaccine-preventable disease so that they can get themselves vaccinated?

“I have discovered along the way that it is easy for parents to be misinformed. It is a real challenge to be well informed.”

Suzanne Walther on A Parent’s Decision on Immunization: Making the Right Choice

Vaccines are safe, with few risks, and necessary.

It might be a challenge, but it is worth the effort to be well informed about vaccines. It is worth knowing that your kids are vaccinated and protected.

More on the Greatest Tricks Anti-Vaccine Folks Use to Persuade Parents to Skip Vaccines


Award Winning Vaccine Advocates

Many people advocate for vaccines.

They help scared parents understand that vaccines are safe, with few risks, and necessary.

And then there are those people who go and above and beyond what everyone else does.

Awards Winning Vaccine Advocates

These are the vaccine advocates who win awards.

“Vaccines cannot speak for themselves; they need vocal advocates in every community in order to preserve their great contributions to healthier lives and healthier communities.”

William Schaffner, MD The winner of the 2017 NVPO Excellence in Vaccine Communication Award

Vaccine advocates who:

  • go above and beyond to foster vaccination in their communities
  • use creative or innovative strategies to promote vaccination or address challenges to vaccination in their practice, health system, community, state, or region
  • work to improve immunization rates for individuals 65 years of age and older in medically underserved communities

From parents and pediatricians, to pharmacists, nurses, lawyers, nurse practioners, and naturopathic primary care providers, etc., there are people advocating for vaccines everywhere.

More on Awards Winning Vaccine Advocates

Where Are All of the Vaccine Advocates?

With more outbreaks and increased talk of vaccine exemptions, one thing often gets lost.

Most people vaccinate and protect their kids because they understand that vaccines are safe, with few risks, and necessary.

Where Are All of the Vaccine Advocates?

Unfortunately, unlike the highly vocal minority of folks who are against vaccines, we rarely hear from vaccine advocates.

There are a lot of them out there though.

And we are finally starting to hear more about them!

“One woman took four of her kids for the M.M.R. that week.”

Amid a Measles Outbreak, an Ultra-Orthodox Nurse Fights Vaccination Fears in Her Community

Like the story of a nurse in Brooklyn who is educating vaccine-hesitant parents in the middle of a measles outbreak.

And how vaccine-hesitant parents in Oregon are attending vaccine workshops to learn about vaccines from medical professionals.

“The response has been overwhelmingly positive. In exit surveys, the vast majority of people who attend our workshops say they’ve decided to vaccinate their children as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.”

How do you get anti-vaxxers to vaccinate their kids? Talk to them — for hours.

Had you heard their stories yet?

How about the story about the mom who started the group South Carolina Parents for Vaccines?

“Nelson tries to counter bad information online with facts. But she also understands the value of in-person dialogue. She organized a class at a public library and advertised the event on mom forums.”

A Parent-To-Parent Campaign To Get Vaccine Rates Up

Did you know that a mom in Colorado, who started the group Community Immunity, put up a billboard to help raise immunization rates in her community?

Or that a group of parents formed Vaccinate California and helped support the passage of SB 277 and improved vaccination rates in California?

Did you know that there are similar immunization advocacy groups in Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington?

Other communities have Immunization Coalitions and Facebook groups to help answer questions and educate parents about vaccines.

Are you ready to join these vaccine advocates?

More on All of the Vaccine Advocates

A Legislative Guide to Advocating for Stronger Vaccine Laws

Having to get vaccinated to attend school isn’t a new idea.

In 1827, Boston mandated that all children attending public school must receive the smallpox vaccine.

Believe it or not, it wasn’t until the 1980-81 school year that there were laws in all 50 states mandating that children receive vaccinations before starting school. The smallpox vaccine wasn’t one of them…

A Legislative Guide to Advocating for Stronger Vaccine Laws

Not surprisingly, as vaccines did their job and rates of vaccine-preventable diseases dropped, politicians were able to weaken our vaccine laws.

Over just a few years, from 1998 to 2000, 15 states added personal belief vaccine exemptions!

We are now paying the price, with increases of vaccine-preventable diseases among clusters of intentionally unvaccinated children whose parents claim non-medical vaccine exemptions.

And that’s why we are seeing more and more states work to strengthen their vaccine laws.

Legislators who want to combat vaccine exemption abuse should enact laws that make it clear that:

  • medical exemptions are based on ACIP guidelines, current accepted medical practice, and evidence-based medicine – not anecdotes
  • medical exemptions should be reviewed and approved by the State Epidemiologist, Deputy State Epidemiologist, or other designated professionals at the health department
  • religious exemptions, if included at all, should specifically exclude philosophical exemptions and must reflect a sincere religious belief
  • philosophical exemptions, if included at all, should require some degree of education against the myths and misinformation that scares parents away from vaccinating their kids
  • exempted students will be excluded from school during outbreaks
  • exemptions should include a signed affidavit that is notarized
  • exemptions should be recertified each year
  • most exemptions are temporary
  • a separate exemption application should be required for each vaccine
  • exemption rates should be tracked at the school level and should be posted on school websites

Getting an exemption shouldn’t be easier than getting vaccinated!

Become an advocate and help get more kids vaccinated. You can also help stop bad vaccine laws from being enacted in your state, including some that would make it even easier to get an exemption.

More on A Legislative Guide to Stronger Vaccine Laws

Vaccines and Social Media

Believe it or not, social media isn’t all bad, not even when it comes to talking about vaccines.

Of course, social media does amplify the bad players and does seem to help scare many parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

But the anti-vaccine movement pre-dates social media. Social media simply helps a minority of folks who don’t trust vaccines become even more vocal.

Vaccines and Social Media

So that we are on the same page, do you know what folks are talking about when they mention social media?

Social media is the interactive parts of the Internet, so places like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, Snapchat, Pinterest, and YouTube, etc.

What are you going to find if you go on social media and want to talk about vaccines?

It depends.

“The semantic network of positive vaccine sentiment demonstrated greater cohesiveness in discourse compared to the larger, less-connected network of negative vaccine sentiment.”

Kang et al on Semantic Network Analysis of Vaccine Sentiment in Online Social Media

It depends on who your friends are, what groups you are in, and who you follow.

“Measures of information exposure derived from Twitter explained differences in coverage that were not explained by socioeconomic factors. Vaccine coverage was lower in states where safety concerns, misinformation, and conspiracies made up higher proportions of exposures, suggesting that negative representations of vaccines in the media may reflect or influence vaccine acceptance.”

Dunn et al on Mapping information exposure on social media to explain differences in HPV vaccine coverage in the United States.

And unfortunately, that likely influences whether or not your kids are going to be vaccinated and protected.

Social media can be a strong tool to combat vaccine hesitancy too though and can help educate folks that vaccines are safe, with few risks, and necessary.

“Given the ‘viral’ rates of anti-vaccination campaign dispersion through these same media, public health departments working in tandem with community groups, clinicians, hospitals and federal officials can leverage strong coalitions to prevent and treat infectious disease in their communities.”

Warren et al on Measles, social media and surveillance in Baltimore City

It is especially important that local and state health departments learn to use social media during outbreaks to educate the public on the importance of getting vaccinated and protected and combat propaganda and new conspiracy theories that sometimes arise when they don’t put out enough information about an outbreak.

“Our results indicate that users of Twitter (OR4.41, 95%CI: 1.43-13.60) and Facebook (OR 1.66, 95%CI: 1.01-2.72) as sources of health information were more likely to be vaccinated in comparison to users who do not use Twitter or Facebook as a source of health information.”

Ahmed et al on Social media use and influenza vaccine uptake among White and African American adults.

More than a few studies have shown that social media interventions improve vaccine acceptance.

Posting a #flushotselfie on social media can help others get vaccinated and protected too.
Posting a #flushotselfie on social media can help others get vaccinated and protected too.

Unfortunately, studies have shown that it is the folks who are against vaccines that are more likely to talk to others about vaccines on social media.

“To summarize the results, mothers who generally support childhood vaccinations are less likely to engage in communicative action about the issue, including information seeking, attending, forefending, permitting, forwarding, and sharing.”

McKeever et al on Silent Majority: Childhood Vaccinations and Antecedents to Communicative Action

So what should we do?

Instead of worrying about getting Larry Cook and a few other anti-vaccine heroes off social media, let’s get more vaccine advocates on social media!

“By targeting those who are in support of childhood vaccinations with simple, fact-based information that is easy to share online, media and health organizations could create a contagion effect on social media, which could help change perceptions, attitudes, and possibly even vaccine-related behaviors, and might have implications for years to come.”

McKeever et al on Silent Majority: Childhood Vaccinations and Antecedents to Communicative Action

And not just during outbreaks of measles!

More on Vaccines and Social Media

How to Become a Vaccine Advocate

Are you tired of reading about outbreaks that might put your family at risk, either because they are too young to be vaccinated, fully vaccinated, or because they have a true medical condition that keeps them from being vaccinated?

Brittney Kara, who once wondered why vaccines weren’t mentioned in the Bible, gets a lot of other things wrong too.

Are you especially tired of reading about these outbreaks while friends and family members post anti-vaccine propaganda on Facebook that you know isn’t true?

How to Become a Vaccine Advocate

It is time to speak up and speak out against anti-vaccine misinformation.

It’s time to become a vaccine advocate.

Most importantly, post and share stories when you or your family get a vaccine!

Share your #flushotselfie and let folks know you got vaccinated and protected.
Share your #flushotselfie and let folks know you got vaccinated and protected.

And be skeptical when you see or hear something that is anti-vaccine, especially when they are talking about toxins, vaccine-induced diseases, Big Pharma, vaccine choice, mandatory vaccination, the benefits of natural immunity, or when they are trying to sell you their books, videos, seminars, or supplements.

If nothing else, drop a link to the vaxopedia whenever someone posts something about vaccines that you just know isn’t true.

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