Unvaccinated teenagers using internet for advice on obtaining immunisations

Unvaccinated teenagers are using internet forums for advice on how to obtain immunisations, often without the knowledge of their anti-vaxxer parents.

Ohio teen Ethan Lindenberger sparked international attention after posting on Reddit that his parents are "kind of stupid" and don't believe in vaccinations.   

"Because of their beliefs I've never been vaccinated for anything, God knows how I'm still alive," the 18-year-old wrote. He explained that as he was now legally an adult, he wanted advice on where to go to get credible vaccinations.

Lindenberger's post drew more than 1200 comments, including a nurse who offered some advice on navigating the US healthcare system.

The teen shared his medical records with online science magazine Undark this week, which reportedly show he has not yet received shots for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), chickenpox, or even polio - "a disease that can cause paralysis and sometimes lead to death".   

Lindenberger says he credits this to his mother being influenced by online anti-vaccination discussions, and the theories of physician Andrew Wakefield, whose studies linking the MMR vaccine to autism have been long discredited.          

Lindenberger is not alone.

In a Reddit post under 'Legal Advice', 15-year-old 'Danny' begs readers for help on obtaining vaccines as a minor.       

"I have spent the last four years trying to convince my mother that vaccines are safe. I haven't succeeded. So instead I am trying to research how to be vaccinated without my mother's consent," he wrote.

"What legal consequences can I face if I fake my parent's signature giving me consent to vaccinations besides the hepatitis vaccine?"

The Washington Post reports there is an increasing number of internet-savvy teenagers seeking their own treatment, in opposition to their parents' views.        

"This generation of unvaccinated children coming of age has looked at the science and want to protect themselves," Allison Winnike, spokesperson for the Texas-based Immunisation Partnership told the newspaper.

"Now you're seeing children coming of age, out from a cloud of misinformation."

A series of Twitter posts in response to the topic have shown how common the conundrum is.

"My mum told me that she "vaccinated" me against whooping cough with homeopathy," wrote one user. "I was horrified and asked my dad and he said he took me (and siblings) to get vaccinated without telling her."

"I was one of these people once upon a time! I am so grateful to the particular Reddit community that helped me get caught up in a discreet way :)" wrote another.

In New Zealand, the Ministry of Health recommends that all children - including teenagers - are immunised. Most childhood vaccinations are free, and many carried out at the school.

However, for those under 18, standard parental approval laws still apply.