Ethan Lindenberger, 18, of Norwalk, Ohio, drew attention in November for posting a message on Reddit about getting vaccinated at his age and in February he defied his parents' wishes and went through with the vaccination.
"I grew up understanding my mother believed vaccines are unsafe, as she would speak openly about her views both online and in person", the high schooler said Tuesday in testimony before a Senate hearing on contagious disease outbreaks.
Lindenberger, a high school senior, told Senate lawmakers that he grew up understanding his mother's beliefs, but that "seeds of doubt were planted and questions arose because of the backlash my mother would receive".
He said his mother still turns to what he calls "illegitimate sources that instill fear into the public". "I have seen people who have not been vaccinated who have required liver transplantation because they were not, and who have ended up with bad diseases for no other reason than they did not understand vaccination was important". "Using the love, affection, and care of a parent for their children to push an agenda and create false distress is shameful".
But he sought out information from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, public health organisations and scientific journals.
"Many people don't resonate well with data and numbers - they resonate better through stories", he said.
"When you convince parents not that their information is incorrect but that their children are at risk that is a much more substantial way to cause people to change their minds", Lindenberger said.
"You may or may not know I am a physician", Cassidy said. The only non-medical professional witness, the high-schooler spoke about his decision to get vaccinated and how to correct the spread of misinformation. These include: Dr. John Wiseman, the Secretary of Health for the Washington State Department of Health; Saad Omer, Professor of Epidemiology & Pediatrics at Emory University and John Boyle, President and CEO of the Immune Deficiency Foundation.
Social media companies face increasing scrutiny for amplifying fringe anti-vaccine sentiment amid measles outbreaks in several states like Washington.
Yet not everyone agreed fully with some of the ideas put forth in the hearing, such as mandatory vaccine requirements.
"Given the choice, I do believe that the benefits of most vaccines vastly outweigh the risks, yet it is wrong to say that there are no risks to vaccines", Paul said. "But I still do not favor giving up on liberty for a false sense of security".
Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) on Tuesday clashed with Sen. Her actions came from a place "of loving her children and being concerned", he said.
"Now, if you believe in liberty, that's fine, don't get immunized, but I don't think you need to necessarily expose others to disease", he said.
When it comes to the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, the CDC has long confirmed that it is safe and effective.
"Here is what I want parents in Tennessee, in Washington, in Texas, everywhere in our country to know: Vaccines are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and meet the FDA's gold standard of safety".
In Tennessee, the measles vaccination rate for kindergartners is 96.9 percent.
Measles is highly contagious and can live in a room for two hours after an infected person coughed or sneezed. "The only way to protect against measles is to get vaccinated".