“It was close to 30 a day when the story first dropped,” said the recent Norwalk High School graduate.
Lindenberger’s story took off in both the international press and on social media after he decided to get immunized against his parents’ wishes. He made the decision soon after turning 18 in September. Lindenberger is the son of Joe Lindenberger and Jill Wheeler, both of Norwalk.
After posting on Reddit in November while doing research about vaccines, the story broke. Ethan Lindenberger and his mother then did interviews with various media outlets, including FOX, The Washington Post, CNN, reporters from Berlin and Australia and “Good Morning America.” There also was coverage in USA Today.
Then on March 5, Lindenberger accepted an invitation from the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions to testify in Congress about his experience. The hearing was titled “Vaccines Save Lives: What is Driving Preventable Disease Outbreaks?” After he testified, he said did between 40 and 50 interviews, with about 15 of them being in person.
By “standing up for science,” Time magazine named the young man as one of its “next generation leaders.” He was featured in the May 27 issue.
“It’s quite humbling,” Lindenberger told the Reflector. “I didn’t know it would be 10 people (being recognized). I also didn’t know I’d be one of only two Americans.”
Six or seven weeks ago, he received an email from Time about the feature. A Cleveland-based reporter later interviewed him by phone.
Lindenberger, according to Time, “is now all caught up with his shots and enjoys providing advice to other children who contact him because they are in a similar situation.” In a YouTube video posted in March, he said he “grew up in an (anti-vaccination) household” and his mother “didn’t believe that vaccines were beneficial to the health and safety of society and believes that they cause autism, brain damage and other complications.”
“I questioned her sources. Misinformed people aren’t evil, but misinformation still isn’t OK,” Lindenberger told Time reporter Alice Park, who noted “he says he never questioned (Wheeler) as a parent.”
Now, Lindenberger told the Reflector he simply wants his experience to “inspire other people.”
“That’s all I hope that it really does,” he said.
It’s very likely that Lindenberger will inspire others as he continues his education, given what he is studying. He will be attending Cedarville University to earn a bachelor’s degree in ministry.
For the last six to seven years, he has helped youth patsor Joe Binkley at The Chapel with the middle-school youth group. Lindenberger said he wants to use his undergraduate degree eventually to “probably be a youth minister.”
“I’ve seen firsthand how impactful it is,” he added.