The City Council in Washington, DC has voted in favor of a controversial bill that allows children as young as age 11 to receive vaccinations without permission from their parents.
The “Minor Consent for Vaccinations Amendment Act,” approved with a vote of 12-1, allows doctors to administer “government-recommended inoculations” without parents’ permission as long as the minor is deemed “capable of meeting the informed consent standard.”
Since when do we trust 11-year-olds to make decisions about their health?
Proponents say the bill is necessary to achieve herd immunity against measles, a disease that spiked in the US last year despite having been declared eliminated by the World Health Organization in 2000. Vaccination rates in the DC area have declined for the past five years, with rates at some private schools dipping lower than 85%. A rate of 95% is needed to achieve herd immunity.
“A child needs to be protected against the dangers of things like measles, other diseases that cause death, and the community needs to be protected so that diseases that were once thought to be eliminated are not coming back,” argues council member and bill sponsor Mary Cheh.
In cases where children seek vaccinations without their parents’ permission, doctors would be instructed to send vaccination records directly to the kid’s school – not to parents – and seek compensation from insurers.
Opponents view the bill as an infringement of the right parents have to raise their kids however they want.
“Parents have a fundamental right to direct the upbringing, education, and care of their children,” argues Trayon White, the only council member who voted against the bill. “Medical professionals and schools should not be permitted to coerce impressionable minors into procedures capable of causing injury or death behind their parents’ back.”
“For me, it’s not an issue of the vaccination,” he continued. “It’s an issue of the council voting to circumvent the inclusion of a parent making a decision about their child.”
This bill is clearly an effort to subvert “anti-vaxxers” (parents who object to vaccinations, typically for religious reasons) ahead of the expected COVID vaccine, but it would also give kids access to the HPV vaccine – which is opposed by some parents because HPV is sexually transmitted.
Existing laws in DC already allow young adults to access mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment, and birth control prescriptions without their parents’ consent.
Author’s Note: While I firmly disagree with anti-vaxxers, I also believe that parents have the right to raise their children however they see fit. Not only does this bill represent an infringement of that right, but it sets a weird consent precedent for 11-year-olds.
Maybe we should just go ahead and lower the age to buy tobacco to 11?