These Teens Are Defying Their Parents by Getting Vaccines

Ah, kids today with their music and their gun control advocacy – and their … vaccines? Young adults are coming up with a novel and lifesaving rebellion as the children of vaccine-refusing parents actively seek out vaccinations, with the current growing measles epidemic in Washington triggering a flood in demand.

A powerful article from Jane Roberts at Undark chronicled the experience of kids trying to get vaccinated — and parents acting betrayed because their children chose to go against their beliefs.

It’s hard to say how widespread this issue is. NPR also picked up the story – and members of the public are clearly interested, in part because it’s so compelling. Minors are in a weird position when it comes to their medical autonomy: Their parents are legally expected and allowed to make decisions on their behalf, but those decisions can include choices that run contrary to established medical practice or wisdom.

In some cases, the state may intervene and mandate treatment, although in some states people are allowed to claim “religious exemptions” to deny their children access to procedures like cancer treatment and blood transfusions.

Despite a huge body of evidence showing that vaccines are extremely safe and effective, some parents still refuse to vaccinate. In the case of a highly contagious illness like measles, there can be horrific consequence when an outbreak occurs.

That’s why states are pushing for tighter vaccine laws, and in Washington, a whole crowd of parents turned out to protest when the state had hearings to discuss the possibility of making it harder to opt out of vaccines.

The bottom line is that kids are in a vulnerable position with respect to their parents: They’re not paying the bills and making the decisions, and they trust their parents to make good choices for them. By refusing to vaccinate, parents are depriving their children of an opportunity to make their own choices after they’re 18. At that time, if someone really feels strongly in opposition to all scientific evidence that vaccines are bad, that adult can decide to stop getting vaccines and boosters.

Ethan Lindenberger, interviewed by NPR, said he grew up hearing anti-vaccine propaganda from his mother, who refused to vaccinate him — but he got curious and started doing his own research. What he found suggested “there was a lot more evidence in defense of vaccinations.” When he confronted his mother with his findings, including that anti-vaccination forces were having a negative effect on public health, she blew it off.

So he took matters into his own hands, as have some other young adults. But while Lindenberger waited until he was 18 to do so, other young people interested in getting vaccines don’t need to do the same.

Depending on the state, youth can consent to medical care like vaccines as young as 13 — and a public health department may provide them for free or at low cost. Young adults who haven’t been vaccinated or aren’t sure and want to get information can ask to speak with their doctors privately or call a public health department. A health care provider can confidentially discuss risks and benefits, provide information about the age of consent and help people make appointments to get vaccinated or receive booster shots.

In Washington, the outbreak has led to an increase in demand for the measles vaccine. This highlights the fact that many members of the anti-vaccine contingent change their tune when confronted with stark reality. Unfortunately, that’s too late for vulnerable people who die because they were exposed to unvaccinated individuals who got sick.

And sometimes, those unvaccinated individuals die too, leaving parents with a lifetime of regret.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

44 comments

Mary B
Mary B8 hours ago

I am opposed to giving multiple vaccines to infants before their immune systems are fully developed. Nor do I think that scientists are as smart as they assume. There is always more to learn .

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Paula A
Paula A9 hours ago

thank you

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Kitty Kali
Kitty Kali11 hours ago

Good! :) It's not fun at all to catch a "childhood virus" when you're older. Being forced to suddenly miss school / work for at least one week can damage one's academic record / career.
Flu vaccines work very well for me. I fell ill several times every winter when I couldn't get the shot in November, before the flu season started. But when I get the flu shot, the seasonal inconveniences are limited to the occasional sore throat and runny nose.

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Greta L
Greta L17 hours ago

tyfs

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Ruth R
Ruth R19 hours ago

Commonsense prevailing in the younger generation, I'm glad to see. The anti-vaccine brigade are a generation who grew up never having lost a sibling to a disease that could have been prevented by a vaccine. They were lucky, but their children might not be.

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Debbi W
Debbi Wyesterday

Good for those kids. They understand the importance of vaccines better than their families. Hopefully, they will enlist more teens to join them.

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Shirley S
Shirley Syesterday

I & my siblings survived having measles as children as there was no vaccine then. But I think that catching measles when older would probably be a worry.

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Lee J
Lee Juslinyesterday

I'm in my mid 70s and had to get the Measles vaccine as I never had the disease as a kid. Not covered by Medicare so $250. out of pocket. Tough when you live on a fixed income. With prop vaccinations, measles would be eliminated.

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Glennis W

They are all awesome Thank you got caring and sharing

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Glennis W

Keep up the great work kids Thank you got caring and sharing

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