No, Teens Shouldn’t Be Required to Make Adult Decisions About Vaccines

This article by PRF president Will Estrada was originally published in The Federalist.

Should laws be passed that cut parents out of the decision-making process when it comes to teens and vaccines?

Yes, if you’re the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board, who support California Senate Bill 866, innocuously entitled “Minors: Vaccine Consent,” which could come up for a vote in the legislature anytime in the next week. Their recent editorial argued that “California teenagers should have the right to protect their health by receiving approved vaccines without parental consent or knowledge.”

To that unprecedented and controversial claim I say without hesitation, “NO!”

This is not an issue of parents versus children. We all recognize that teens are still developing and are still immature. Science has shown that their brains are still developing. We still consider them to be minors because they still need the influence and wisdom of loving parents. After all, we don’t let minors use tobacco, vape, or vote. So, the question is really: Who will help guide and protect minor children—government bureaucrats or parents?

The LA Times Editorial Board thinks that parents cannot be trusted. They advocate for minors to consent to vaccinations to protect from what they describe as “vaccine misinformation” from parents. But here’s the problem: the LA Times Editorial Board wants government bureaucrats to be influencing kids. Parents can’t be trusted, but government bureaucrats can—at least in the eyes of the LA Times Editorial Board.

This is not only wrong, but also directly contrary to U.S. Supreme Court precedent. In the 1979 case of Parham v. J.R., the Court made this clear: “The law’s concept of the family rests on a presumption that parents possess what a child lacks in maturity, experience, and capacity for judgment required for making life’s difficult decisions. More important, historically it has recognized that natural bonds of affection lead parents to act in the best interests of their children.”

Parents, not government bureaucrats or even the LA Times Editorial Board, must be trusted to review all the information in consultation with their medical provider, and make the best decision for their kids.

Many parents will choose vaccinations. Others will choose to wait. Some will choose to not use some vaccines.

Child safety is also an issue. If minors who are still developing in their wisdom and maturity are being forced to make adult decisions, what happens if they forget which vaccine they received? What happens if they receive multiple and unnecessary vaccinations? What happens if they suffer an adverse reaction, and their parents, unaware they received a particular vaccine, are not able to provide emergency medical services with accurate and timely information?

All of these are issues that arise when laws are passed that allow minors to consent to vaccinations and cut their parents out of the process.

Some of these concerns led to our organization recently filing suit against the District of Columbia and winning a preliminary injunction in Federal District Court for the District of Columbia in the case of Booth v. Bowser regarding the District of Columbia’s legislative scheme that allowed minors to consent to immunizations. The court rightly agreed that DC’s Minor Consent to Vaccination Act violated federal law.

Parents are a child’s first and best advocate. Parents know that when it comes to their children, one size does not fit all. And I will always stand with loving parents over some government bureaucrat who may be a great person, but who at the end of the day works with kids because they are paid to. The best way to protect children is by empowering parents.