Teenage children who were denied vaccinations by their parents are taking to places like Reddit and other social media platforms to find out how to take matters into their own hands — without their parents' permission.
“I had grown up with my mom and she had been very vocal about her opinions on vaccines and how she felt they were dangerous and caused very bad side effects,” Ethan Lindenberger, an 18-year-old pro-vaxxer from Ohio told Fox and Friends on Monday. “I had grown up hearing that and when I started to move on to social media, you know, 13, 14, there was very online heated debate. I turned to Reddit to receive advice on where to go to receive my vaccinations.”
Lindenberger posted his plea on the subreddit r/NoStupidQuestions back in November looking for a way to get vaccinated on his own.
“My parents think vaccines are some kind of government scheme,” he wrote on the posting. “It's stupid and I've had countless arguments over the topic. But, because of their beliefs I've never been vaccinated for anything, god knows how I'm still alive,” the teen wrote at the time.
His post quickly went viral and he was able to get vaccinated – on his own – a month later.
“So I went to the public health department in my local town and spoke to some of the people there,” he told Fox and Friends, “and they were very kind and they gave me information. I spoke to a family physician and from then on I went and made an appointment and a few months later I had about five vaccines I have more coming this month,” he said.
According to The Washington Post, the percentage of children under the age of 2 who have never received vaccinations has quadrupled since 2001 in the U.S. While overall immunization rates remain high at the national level, there have been growing concerns among medical professionals that the upswing of the anti-vaxxer movement has created pockets of children who are more susceptible to diseases and pose major health risks to the public at large.
As these teenagers come of age, they are starting to form their own opinions and deciding that their parents don’t know best when it comes to their health and well-being.
Other youths in a similar position to Lindenberger's have taken to the Internet to find answers, leading to what has become somewhat of a trend.
“I am writing because I am the 15-year-old son of an anti-vaccine parent," reads a plea posted on Reddit four months ago. “I have spent the last 4 years trying to convince my mother that vaccines are safe. I haven't succeeded. So instead I am trying to research how to be vaccinated without my mother's consent.”
Another teen explained their concerns on the Internet message board earlier this year.
“I’m 15 years old and I never really thought about my parents not vaccinating me but now I have been doing some research about them and I don’t really think they are harmful and I want to get a vaccine. Any advice on what to do?” reads another posting on the Internet message board.
Generally, in the U.S. a person must be at least 18 years of age to make decisions to have any sort of procedure or medical treatment, but under the Mature Minor Doctrine, a total of 15 states – including Florida, Pennsylvania and Illinois – allow decisions to be made without any sort of parental consent.
The doctrine is a legal measure that accepts that a minor, even if they are not emancipated from their family, possesses the maturity to decide if they want a particular health care treatment.
Many of the teens asking on social media how to get vaccinations on their own are often looking for information on the Mature Minor Doctrine.
“Teen-aged female here,” reads a Reddit posting from last week. “Is there a version of the Mature Minor Doctrine in Florida? I haven't got vaccines since elementary school, Dad fell down the conspiracy theory rabbit hole, and my Mom agrees with him. Any and all advice is appreciated.”