California will allow children as young as 12-years-old, the youngest age of any state in the nation, to be vaccinated without their parent’s consent under a proposal introduced late Thursday by State Senator Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco.
Wiener argued that California already allows those 12 and up to consent to the Hepatitis B and Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines, and to treatment for sexually transmitted infections, substance abuse, and mental health disorders.
“Giving young people the autonomy to receive life-saving vaccines, regardless of their parents’ beliefs or work schedules, is essential for their physical and mental health,” he said. “It’s unconscionable for teens to be blocked from the vaccine because a parent either refuses or cannot take their child to a vaccination site.”
Wiener’s bill does not stop at the COVID-19 vaccine. His bill would lift the requirement for parental consent for that age group for any vaccine that has received stamps of approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The age of consent in such matters differs from state to state. Alabama allows preteens to consent at 14, Oregon at 15, Rhode Island and South Carolina at 16, according to Wiener. Only Washington D.C. has a lower limit, allowing 11-year-olds to make their own complex medical decisions without the involvement of their pesky parents.
Wiener claims vaccine hesitancy and misinformation have deterred vaccinations against measles and other contagious diseases that can then spread among youths whose parents, for reasons Wiener would rather oversimplify than actually explore, have declined to have vaccinated.
California Governor Gavin Newsom announced the nation’s first coronavirus vaccine mandate for schoolchildren back in October, but it likely won’t take effect until later this year and allows exemptions for medical reasons, religious and personal beliefs — exemptions children, under increasing pressure to get vaccinated from their peers and teachers, are unlikely to seek. Liberal lawmakers, meanwhile, are already looking to limit exemptions for medical reasons.
Wiener’s legislation, while not a mandate, is permissive, but any vaccination legislation has proven hugely controversial in California and across the nation.
Even before the pandemic, notes Fox News, busloads of opponents lined up for hours in Sacramento to protest bills that would lift for religious and personal exemptions for the 10 vaccines already required of California school children.
And in September, more than a thousand people rallied outside the state Capitol in opposition to vaccine mandates, even though lawmakers had postponed their consideration of legislation that would require workers to either get vaccinated or submit to weekly coronavirus testing as a condition of their continued employment.
“This to me seems to be another example of Democrats wanting to remove parents from the equation,” said Republican Assemblyman James Gallagher. “I think that’s flawed policy. I think parents are vital to these decisions.”
Even in a Legislature overwhelmingly controlled by Democrats, Gallagher predicts Wiener may have difficulty pushing his bill through.
“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,” Gallagher said.
All this comes on the heels of an announcement, Wednesday, that Wiener at other Democratic lawmakers have formed a “work group” to examine ways they can promote vaccines and fight “misinformation.”
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