Ethan Lindenberger — the 18-year-old who famously got vaccinated against his mother’s wishes — is in New York City today to speak at a high-level United Nations event on combating vaccine misinformation.

But the recent high school graduate’s planned appearance has sparked an onslaught of harassment by anti-vaccination individuals, who have flooded the phone lines of UNICEF, which is hosting the event.

The Norwalk, Ohio teen — whose mother is staunchly against vaccinations — posted on Reddit in November 2017 asking for advice on how to get up to speed on his immunizations. He ended up getting vaccinated against his mother’s wishes — and in the process, quickly gained prominence as a critic of vaccine misinformation.

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In March, Lindenberger testified before the Senate committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions about the threat of false claims being made about vaccines online. He told lawmakers that most of his mother’s flawed information had come from Facebook, which has come under fire for not doing enough to curb health-related inaccuracies on its site.

“I believe she has been so taken advantage of with misinformation online,” he said.

His outspoken advocacy for vaccines has earned him praise from medical professionals and the public health community. But it has also drawn the ire of anti-vaccine individuals, some of whom have harassed him with abusive comments and messages on social media platforms. Some have accused him of being in “Big Pharma’s pocket,” and others have leveled death threats, Lindenberger said. That’s why he wasn’t surprised by the phone calls that inundated the UNICEF office this week — or the hostile nature of some of those calls, he said.

“That’s happened to me for months,” he said. When he testified before the Senate, anti-vaccine protestors rallied outside. Some cornered him by the elevators, he said, and he had to be escorted by Capitol police.

Even in his own hometown, Lindenberger has faced fierce criticism.

“I have friends and family, people who go to my church, who can’t stand what I’m doing,” he said. “When something becomes this polarizing, it becomes very toxic,” he added.

Lindenberger said he tries to separate himself from the attacks that come his way. And though his social media profiles are sometimes overwhelmed with anti-vaccine comments, he tries to engage when he can and sees an opportunity to share accurate information.

“People can be misinformed and so driven and radicalized that it’s almost more sad than it is offensive,” Lindenberger said. “I try to be as respectful of that than I can,” he added.

His speech at the U.N. today comes as the country’s measles count moves toward a quarter-century high. There have been 1,077 cases so far in 2019, according to the CDC.

Lindenberger plans to talk about how social media sites allow dangerous misinformation about vaccines to spread. He’ll also talk about how online anti-vaccine communities can “militarize” to bombard his posts and those of other vaccine advocates with a deluge of hostile comments. Also speaking at the event: Jason Hirsh, head of Facebook’s health policy team, and Gillian Steelfisher, who studies vaccine behaviors and attitudes.

And while Lindenberger continues to champion vaccines and accurate information about them, his mom’s views haven’t changed, he said.

“She believes what I’m doing is dangerous, scary, and misinformed,” he said.

  • Good job!At least somebody thinks and cares for the future of the children!Keep up the good work!You are a person the inspires and worth of all the admiration!

  • This article reflects quintessential systemic narcissism. Your textbook narcissists will impose their dominance over you and then play the victim when you assert your rights and boundaries: “Poor me! I’m being harassed!”

    So when the powers that be try to take away your fundamental right to informed consent to an act of indemnified, medical risk-taking, you’re supposed to just sit back and take it, silly. If you exercise your legal right to peaceful protest or calling the UN to voice your opposition, it’s “harassment.”

    Thanks for clearing that up for us, Megan.

  • Timm- Don’t listen to the compelling report; stay in your insulated bubble that has obviously successfully protected you from the knowing the facts about the vaccine paradigm, which is in the process of dying. Pop the Bubbly.

  • He made his bed.. I’m sure he got paid, so I don’t feel bad for him at all. I feel bad for his mom & all the vaccine injured out there who aren’t given any platform at all.

    • What makes you sure he got paid? I haven’t seen objective information on that anywhere.
      One can have any platform one wishes. At least in this country. That doesn’t mean that legitimate news sources or other private entities are forced to broadcast a particular message if they find it unfounded or of no worth. As for the vanishingly small number of “vaccine-injured” people, there is actually an entire government program to make sure that they are treated and compensated for those unavoidable (while always striving for fewer and fewer such events) downsides to protecting millions of people saved from preventable diseases that have historically caused incredible suffering and tens of thousands of deaths every year.
      Hope this helps!

  • What about listening to all the parents of vaccine injured/killed babies/kids/teens?!

    This is a slap in the face to them that he gets a voice and they don’t. That’s why people are angry!

  • He is not combating misinformation. He is combating the cat is out of the bag facts. People have had enough of ‘cigarettes don’t cause cancer’ science in regard to vaccines. Its time to understand what exactly the 1986 Childhood Vaccine Injury Act does for big pharma and what it doesn’t do for the injured and dead.

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