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California lawmakers push bill to let teens get vaccinated without parental consent

Teens in the Golden State can already make a number of health care decisions without their parents, including to be vaccinated against HPV and to receive birth control and abortion services.

(CN) — California lawmakers announced legislation Friday that would lower the age of consent for vaccinations including the Covid-19 vaccine to 12 years old.

At a press conference in his home city San Francisco, state Senator Scott Wiener unveiled Senate Bill 866 as a means to increase vaccination rates among California’s young people. An estimated 1 million Californians aged 12 to 17 are not vaccinated against Covid-19. The bill would lower the age of consent from 18 to 12 for a range of inoculations approved and recommended by the Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including the Covid-19 and flu vaccines.

If passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom, the bill will go into effect Jan, 1, 2023. SB 866 is likely to provoke sharp outcry from those opposed to the state's Covid-19 measures, such as Newsom's vaccine mandate for students.

“This is not a new or radical idea, this is very consistent with existing law,” Wiener said, noting that other states already have vaccination ages of consent lower than 18.

“California already allows 12- to 17-year-olds to make some significant medical decisions,” Wiener said. “12-year-olds today can already go in and receive an HPV or hepatitis B vaccine without their parents being there. They can receive reproductive health care — including abortion and birth control — on their own. They can receive mental health care, domestic violence-related health care.”

State Senator Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, said the bill would remove “administrative barriers,” including the parental consent form, that he said can make it difficult for teens to arrange the necessary paperwork, transportation and appointment scheduling to get vaccinated. He said unvaccinated teens are especially at risk during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Every day that they’re not vaccinated, they’re more vulnerable,” said Pan, a pediatrician. “Fortunately, youth are less likely than someone who’s older to get seriously ill. But less likely doesn’t mean unlikely, and some of these consequences can be serious.”

Grant Colfax, San Francisco's health director, said the bill would help emphasize the importance of keeping students in school for in-person learning, social engagement and improved behavioral health. And Charles Irwin, a pediatrician at the University of California, San Francisco, said the bill is "critical to further engaging young people in a way to protect their well-being and also protect others."

Teen vaccine advocates joined lawmakers and public health experts at the press conference.

“This bill gives me hope for kids whose parents don’t always make decisions in their best interest, even when they mean well,” said Nyla Gibb, a 12-year-old intern for Max the Vax San Francisco.

Wiener agreed. “This bill will empower these teens,” he said, adding that legislators had heard from teens who were unable to stay employed, participate in sports, play in the school band or go to their friends’ homes without being vaccinated.

“It’s time we take action,” said Arin Parsa, a 14-year-old representative from Teens for Vaccines. “It’s time we remove barriers for teens to get life-saving vaccines and health care. It’s we recognize that it is not only a public health issue, but also a severe mental health issue when teens don’t have basic rights to protect themselves from deadly diseases.”

Categories / Health, Politics, Regional

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