Ethan Lindenberger’s mother, Jill Wheeler, is unfazed by her son’s recent appearance before Congress where he talked about his decision to get vaccinated despite his parents’ wishes.
In a statement on Tuesday, March 5, following the Ohio teen’s testimony, Wheeler spoke to the press and stated that she remains firm about her anti-vaccine stance.
“I didn’t agree with anything he said,” she told The Associated Press. “They’ve made him the poster child for the pharmaceutical industry.”
During his testimony on Tuesday, Lindenberger faced the Senate health, education, labor, and pension committee in Washington to talk about his experience growing up in an anti-vaccine household. He told lawmakers that his mother, Wheeler, believes that vaccines can cause autism, brain damage, and other health complications.
“I grew up under my mother’s beliefs that vaccines are dangerous,” he told the committee.
Lindenberger revealed that the source of his mother’s unfounded fear comes from misinformation being spread online, specifically on the social media site Facebook. He said that whenever he shows her peer-reviewed scientific studies that prove the safety and efficacy of vaccines, she always countered with information from illegitimate sources that “instill fear into the public.”
The young man made headlines last year when he posted on the website Reddit to seek advice on whether he can get vaccines as an adult. After he had turned 18 and, after reviewing studies from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, he decided to get immunization from preventable diseases. By December, he went to a local health center and get shots for influenza, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and HPV.
Facebook was previously criticized by health advocates over anti-vaccination content and groups that appear on the platform. Rep. Adam Schiff of California called out the popular social media site, which boasts of 1.52 billion daily active users as of December, in a letter addressed to founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Schiff also sent a similar letter to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos about the anti-vaccine content and products available to users of the e-commerce site.
Facebook told The Washington Post that it has taken steps to reduce the distribution of misinformation on the platform but admits that they still “have more to do.”