Jan. 24, 2022 -- A proposed bill in California would allow children ages 12 and older to get vaccinated without their parents’ consent.
Democratic State Sen. Scott Wiener introduced Senate Bill 866 on Thursday, saying that preteens “deserve the right to protect themselves” against infectious disease. Under current state law, minors ages 12-17 can’t be vaccinated without permission from parents or guardians unless the vaccine is intended to prevent a sexually transmitted disease.
Parental consent laws for vaccination vary by state and region, The Associated Press reported. A few places, such as Philadelphia and Washington, DC, allow kids 11 and older to consent to their own COVID-19 vaccines. In San Francisco, people ages 12 and older can give consent.
The proposed bill would lift the parental requirement for ages 12 and up for any vaccines that have been approved by the FDA and CDC. The bill is intended to cover coronavirus vaccines as well as others, Wiener said, noting that vaccine hesitancy and misinformation have deterred vaccinations against measles and other contagious diseases.
“You have parents who are blocking their kids from getting the vaccines or … they may not be anti-vaccine, but they just aren’t prioritizing it,” Wiener said during a news conference. “Those kids deserve the right to protect themselves.”
Opponents to the bill have said it would limit parents’ oversight of their children’s health, the AP reported. But Wiener noted that California state law already allows people ages 12 and older to consent to the hepatitis B and human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines and to treatments for sexually transmitted infections, substance abuse, and mental health disorders.
“This is not a new or radical idea,” he said. “It’s very consistent with existing law.”
If the bill passes, California would allow the youngest age of any state to be vaccinated without parental permission, the AP reported. Alabama allows these decisions at age 14, Oregon at 15, and Rhode Island and South Carolina at 16.
Wiener and other Democratic lawmakers announced that they formed the Vaccine Work Group to introduce legislation to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and address vaccine misinformation, according to Politico.
The group is working alongside a student-led advocacy group called Teens for Vaccines, which formed after teens began seeking information on social media about ways they could get a COVID-19 vaccine without parental permission, the AP reported.
“With the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging our communities for over 2 years now, and after facing incessant waves of the virus, the crisis faced by teens that haven’t gotten vaccinated has only gotten worse,” Arin Parsa, a ninth grader from San Jose who founded the advocacy group, said at the news conference.
“Because they can’t get the vaccine, teens have been living in isolation … potentially missing school, friends, and family,” Parsa said.
The first committee hearing for Senate Bill 866 will be in March or April, Politico reported.
The bill will likely face an uphill battle, according to the AP, even in a state legislature controlled by Democrats.
“This to me seems to be another example of Democrats wanting to remove parents from the equation,” James Gallagher, a Republican member of the California Assembly, told the AP.
“I think there will be bipartisan support for the proposition that parents should be involved in their kids’ health care decisions, in deciding what types of medical care and drugs they should be taking,” he said.