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

51 comments

Mia B
Melisa B1 months ago

Good

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Ann B
Ann B1 months ago

vaccinations are made for a purpose--if we would have had them in the 1920's it would have prevented a LOT of deaths

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Ann B
Ann B1 months ago

please flag past member they are a spammer and have been reported

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Daniel N
Past Member 1 months ago

Thank you for sharing

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heather g
heather g1 months ago

I'm sure most people wouldn't knowingly cause someone else to sick. On the other hand, I understand why parents don't trust the system.

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Irene S
Irene S2 months ago

I had measles too when I was three years old. My father brought me a pajama with red spots and I loved it. That´s my only memory, so it was not too bad probably.

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Lindsay K
Lindsay K2 months ago

Good for them!! I had measles when I was a child (they didn't vaccinated against it then - I'm too old!!), and it was horrible! I wouldn't wish that on anyone. I can accept, but I don't know, that there might be some tragic cases where things go wrong, but it's a case of balancing what's best for the common good. However, I would agree that when things do go wrong it can be devastating for those involved, and they should have every support necessary. Thanks for sharing.

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Mary B
Mary B2 months 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
Patricia A2 months ago

thank you

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Kitty Kali
Kitty Kali2 months 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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