Facebook has since been accused of being an enabler of misinformation as many false news and misinformation drives are published and conducted in the social networking platform.
On Tuesday, a teenager who went viral for asking Reddit users if he can have himself vaccinated as an adult testified in Congress that his mother’s misinformation sprung from news and information she reads from Facebook.
Ethan Lindenberger, a teenager from Norwalk, Ohio, traveled to Washington, D.C., to speak at a health, education, labor and pension committee hearing Tuesday on a panel alongside health experts including John Wiesman, Washington state’s secretary of health.
Mr. Lindenberger recalled that as he grew older, he questions his mother why he was not vaccinated, and he was met with misinformation and fake news that his mother read from Facebook groups. Once, he showed her an article from the Center for Disease Control regarding the importance of vaccination and his mother dismissed it as he was told that “that is what they want you to think.”
During the question and answer portion of the hearing, Lindenberger said that his mother is reading posts and watching videos on Facebook that warns parents of the supposed harm of vaccination. She also posted comments and videos regarding the topic to warn other parents herself.
He said it’s with “respect and love” he disagrees with his mother. Learning to research and debate in high school, Lindenberger, 18, said he learned “there always seems to be two sides to a discussion. … This is not true for the vaccine debate.”
The legislative inquiry comes after six measles outbreaks were declared in the United States including in Clark County, Washington, where 70 confirmed cases have been reported.
Lindenberger became famous after he reached out to a Reddit community to ask if he can still be vaccinated as an adult. He revealed during an interview in Good Morning America that he never received vaccines for hepatitis, polio, measles, mumps, rubella or chickenpox. In December of last year, he caught up on his missed immunizations.
Many teenagers like Ethan have started getting vaccinated by themselves against their parent’s wishes. In fact, teenagers in Canada have started going to doctors to ask to get vaccinated, and doctors have claimed that the number of teenagers getting vaccines has spiked up.
According to the doctors in Canada, they have seen a significant rise in the number of Canadian teens and young adults who go out to get the MRR vaccine since an outbreak has started.
According to Dr. Eric Cadesky, is the president of Doctors of BC, he has seen the increase in young patients coming to get vaccinated with his own eyes and he has also heard from other doctors that the panic to get immunized by Canadian youngsters is happening everywhere.
Dr. Cadesky added that the recent surge of young people getting vaccines have seen teenagers getting them amid their parents’ decision for them not to.
“I’ve heard of people throughout Canada and even doctors around the world saying that millennials are using these outbreaks as an opportunity to revisit the decision that their parents had made for them,” he told CBC.
Canada’s chief health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam also weighed in on this wave of later in life vaccinations saying “I don’t think it’s too late ever to get your measles immunization up to date.”
Typically, MMR vaccines that give protection against measles, mumps, and rubella, is given to children in two doses, the first when the kids are around one year old, and the second is anytime between 18 months and when they start school.
However, in some cases, people weren’t vaccinated on that schedule. For example, anyone born between 1970 and 1996 likely would have received only one dose of the MMR vaccine, since the second dose method wasn’t added until 1996. There are also all the people whose parents chose not to get them vaccinated.
Measles, which was declared an eliminated significant public health threat in the United States for two decades, has re-emerged in the Pacific Northwest and other states where vaccination campaigns are not reliable and parents have broad leeway over whether to vaccinate their children.