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State Senate Bill Would Allow Teens To Bypass Parental Approval For COVID-19 Vaccine

Virus Outbreak Florida
Marta Lavandier
Jenna Ramkhelawan, 12, gets a fist bump as she registers to receive the first dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, Tuesday, May 18, 2021, in Miami. Her father Rajaroop Ramkhelawan watches at left.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use in people as young as 12 in May, but if a young person in Pennsylvania wants the COVID-19 vaccine and their parents won’t allow it, there’s not much they can do right now. State law requires kids under 18 to have parental consent for most health care services, including vaccinations.

New legislation from state Sen. Amanda Cappelletti — a Democrat who represents parts of Delaware and Montgomery Counties — would allow people ages 14 and over to get any CDC recommended immunization without parental consent. The legislation will be modeled in part on an existing state law, which allows Pennsylvanians 14 and older to consent to inpatient mental health treatment without a parent or legal guardian’s approval.

Cappelletti said the legislation isn’t just about vaccinations, but also respecting kids’ bodily autonomy.

“I think it’s important that we allow young people to start having those conversations and making those decisions,” she said.

Michael Deem, an assistant professor at Duquesne University’s School of Nursing and Center for Global Health Ethics, said teens who want the vaccine should talk to their parents about it.

“The balance of values seems to tip in favor of allowing adolescents, particularly more mature adolescents,” Deem said. “So we’re thinking about 14 or older, who are well informed about the vaccine risks and benefits — to get that vaccine without parental consent.”

Cappelletti said that there is precedent for legislation that would allow some minors to receive some health care without parental consent. Some states allow minors to consent to STD diagnosis, treatment services, and other procedures without a parent’s permission.

The Philadelphia Board of Health recently announced it would allow “individuals 11 years of age and older to consent to his or her own immunization with a COVID-19 vaccine under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), without the approval or consent of a parent or guardian.” The order would not allow children under 12 to receive the Pfizer shot.

According to Deem, vaccinating teens is an important step towards safeguarding community health.

“Even though teens may not develop severe cases, they may not be hospitalized, they likely will not die from COVID-19, it is still a threat to the community,” he said. “Vaccinating adolescents isn’t just about protecting them from a very small risk, we’re also protecting the community and vulnerable persons around those teens.”

Cappelletti’s bill is expected to be introduced by the end of this month.

Julia Zenkevich is a general assignment reporter for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at jzenkevich@wesa.fm.
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