Times-Herald (Vallejo)

Bill allowing preteen vaccines without parental OK advances

- By Don Thompson

SACRAMENTO >> A California measure that would allow children age 12 and up to be vaccinated without their parents' consent, including against the coronaviru­s, cleared its first legislativ­e hurdle Thursday.

If the proposal becomes law, California would allow the youngest age group of any state to be vaccinated without parental permission.

Minors age 12 to 17 in California currently cannot be vaccinated without permission from their parents or guardians, unless the vaccine is specifical­ly to prevent a sexually transmitte­d disease. California state law already allows people 12 and older to consent to the Hepatitis B and Human Papillomav­irus (HPV) vaccines.

The bill that cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee would lift the parental requiremen­t for that age group for any vaccine that has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administra­tion and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Democratic Sen. Scott Wiener said his bill “will empower teenagers to protect their own health by getting vaccinated,” but it was opposed by dozens of people who called into the committee hearing for well over an hour.

Wiener's proposal is perhaps the most contentiou­s measure remaining from Democratic lawmakers' once-ambitious agenda, after several other proposals lost momentum as the winter pandemic wave eased — although cases are climbing again.

State Sen. Richard Pan last month said he would delay considerat­ion of his bill that would have blocked students from using the personal belief exemption to avoid the coronaviru­s vaccine.

The same day, Gov. Gavin Newsom's administra­tion said it would postpone its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for schoolchil­dren until at least the summer of 2023.

Pan also has stalled considerat­ion of his bill that would block pandemic response funds from law enforcemen­t agencies that refuse to enforce public health orders.

And in March, Assemblyme­mber Buffy Wicks withdrew her bill that would have forced California businesses to require coronaviru­s vaccines for their employees.

Wiener said his vaccine bill “is not a revolution­ary idea. It builds on longstandi­ng existing California law about the age of consent for receiving health care.”

Those 12 and older currently can make decisions under certain circumstan­ces, including for sexually transmitte­d diseases, abortions and birth control, along with substance abuse and mental health disorders, Wiener said.

Parental consent laws for vaccinatio­ns vary by state and region. Alabama allows such decisions for children starting at age 14, Oregon at 15 and Rhode Island and South Carolina at 16, Wiener said.

Philadelph­ia and Washington, D.C., allow children age 11 and up to consent to their own COVID-19 vaccines, and in San Francisco the age is 12 and older.

“We know vaccines save lives,” testified Ani Chaglasian, an advocate with Teens for Vaccines. “Because I did not have the authority to vaccinate myself, I lost my job, summer internship, and was unable to see my grandma when she was intubated.”

Arin Parsa said he founded Teens for Vaccines in 2019, before the coronaviru­s pandemic, during a measles outbreak. He urged lawmakers to pass the bill “so we can live without the fear of deadly diseases taking away our futures.”

But Nicole Pearson, an attorney with a practice advocating for civil and human rights, said the youthful advocates “don't know those times that we stayed up with you, wondering if you were going to live because of some adverse reaction you had to a vaccine.”

“There are many solutions to this problem, and it is not removing the only people who have this knowledge to help their children ... to make informed consent,” Pearson told the committee.

Matthew McReynolds, an attorney representi­ng the Pacific Justice institute, a conservati­ve legal defense organizati­on, said providing students with true choice would be giving them “a choice to attend school with or without a vaccine. That's informed consent and that's true choice.”

Children that young “simply do not have fully developed decision-making skills needed to weigh the risks and benefits and make a truly informed decision,” said Sabrina Sandoval, a school psychologi­st who opposed the measure.

“Kids are going to be targeted and marketed to to get the vaccines,” warned opponent Dawn Richardson, director of advocacy for the National Vaccine Informatio­n Center.

Senators of both political parties questioned whether California's legislatio­n might be affected by a recent Washington, D.C., court ruling that the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act preempts state law on minors' consent.

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