Norwalk teen chooses vaccine

Cary Ashby • Feb 13, 2019 at 3:44 PM

Ethan Lindenberger feels confident — and healthy — with his decision to get immunized, something his parents haven’t favored.

“Absolutely,” said the Norwalk High School senior, who turned 18 in September. “People have been asking me if I’ve had (adverse) reactions — and no; I haven’t had any reactions.”

Lindenberger’s story has taken off both in the international press and on social media. He said vaccination is “a hot topic” and an important conversation to have because people have different views on the topic.

“I haven’t reached out to any news (outlet) or any news station. It’s all been people reaching out to me,” the Norwalk teenager added. “I don’t think I’ve been misrepresented in any way by the media.”

Over the last several days, the 18-year-old Norwalk resident has done about a dozen interviews with various media outlets, including FOX, The Washington Post, CNN and reporters from Berlin and Australia. He and his parents also were on “Good Morning America” and the coverage was in USA Today.

“This has turned into quite a story,” said his father, Joe Lindenberger. “He (Ethan) 100 percent believes in the platform that teens can go against their parents’ wishes if they think they are right. I support him 100 percent. I am proud of him. At the same time I don’t fault his mother for her beliefs, either.”

Lindenberger and his ex-wife, Jill Wheeler, have four children — Isaac, 22, Ethan, 18, Noah, 16, and Emma, 14. Lindenberger and Wheeler share a similar philosophy, to research immunization and vaccinations before making an educated decision.

“Educate yourself: that’s my whole thing,” Wheeler said. “Research it on your own. Don’t go by the word of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control).”

Ethan Lindenberger said his decision to be vaccinated isn’t about going against his parents’ wishes, but doing what will keep him healthy, will keep other people from getting sick as well and is a great way to avoid significant health risks, such as polio. After he turned 18, he went to the Huron County health department to see what he needed to do and got the process started.

“I saw some really overwhelming evidence that was in defense of vaccines and when I turned 18, I pursued that route,” Lindenberger said. “When I turned 18, I continued thinking about it and I discussed it with friends and got some more evidence and (had) discussions.”

His journey for information “blew up” after he posted on Reddit, an online forum, asking for advice on what steps he should take to get vaccinated. 

“My thought is he’s old enough to make his own decision,” said Wheeler, who believes it’s important for her son to “look at other sources” outside of the CDC, “go down other roads” and educate himself “on the immunity world.”

Wheeler said she respects her son’s decision, but doesn’t agree with it. She learned her son was serious about being vaccinated when she received a pre-recorded phone call from his doctor about an appointment that Ethan had made about what shots he would need.

Her biggest regret is that her son didn’t get her perspective on why she had educated herself on not vaccinating her children for 18 years.

“I never got that chance,” said Wheeler, who believes that by not getting vaccinated, a person’s body naturally has stronger immunity. “I really think he is jumping in with both feet without checking out the complete spectrum.”

She started taking an anti-vaccination stand soon after her oldest son Isaac was getting his shot for chicken pox. Wheeler learned it wasn’t a lifetime immunity; her son would have to get another shot in 10 years.

Lindenberger’s father is proud of the way Ethan is standing up for himself.

“Ethan said, ‘Hey, I want to go see the doctor.’ His mom said, ‘Why? He is a smart kid,’” Joe Lindenberger said.

Wheeler said she and her son had “light discussions” about immunizations and only found about her son’s intense interest in being vaccinated three to four weeks ago.

“It’s not been anything serious,” she said. 

Lindenberger’s father said he doesn’t believe “there is a right or wrong answer” when it comes to vaccinations.

“We want to protect ourselves. .… Noah wants to do more research,” he added. “That is what I love about my kids; they want to know more. We are not sheep; we don’t want to follow the masses. I have a great relationship with their mother, but she is a little more firm. She doesn’t follow the beaten path. (Because everybody else is doing it) it doesn’t mean its right.

“Do kids need all of that stuff pumped into their bodies when they are so young?,” Joel Lindenberger said. “Jill believes vaccinations are 100 percent bad for you. I believe vaccinations are good when you need them at the time. … Don’t just line up and get vaccinated. There should be some hereditary testing to find out if there are concerns. Is this really safe?

“Look on both sides of the issue. Look at the comments,” the father added. “There are people who support her (Wheeler). I have read the comments about how ‘his parents are idiots.’ It’s a shame. People are so mean.”