Parenting

Make it easy How Vaccine Self-Consent Laws Can Help Teens With Anti-Vax Parents

A female teen patient speaks to a doctor

Photo: Monkey Business Images (Shutterstock)

Now that the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for ages 12-17, all teens are eligible to be vaccinated—but some teenagers who would like to get vaccinated can’t, because they lack parental consent. In a recent poll, conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, only 3 out of 10 parents surveyed said they would get their children vaccinated right away. In the same survey, almost 1 in 4 parents said they would definitely not be getting their child vaccinated. Still other parents wanted to wait and see. So what’s a teen eager to get vaccinated to do?

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“This is not new, and yet it feels very new because of the urgency around this, and what’s at stake for kids,” said Cora Breuner, a pediatrician in Seattle and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. “As pediatricians, we are very aware of how challenging it is for some of our patients to get vaccinated when their parents are not onboard.”

For a lot of teenagers, just as with adults, getting vaccinated is seen as a way to return to a more normal life, as well as a way to protect their loved ones. But if a teenager wants to get vaccinated, but their parents don’t agree, what are their options?

Although their choices are limited, there are strategies teenagers can try, from attempting to educate their parents on the importance of vaccination to researching vaccine self-consent laws in their states.

VaxTeen.org aims to help teens sell their parents on the vaccine 

After realizing many of her peers didn’t know their rights when it came to vaccine self-consent—and to address the challenges teens face getting vaccinated when parents don’t agree—L.A. teenager Kelly Danielpour started the website VaxTeen.org. As Danielpour told the New York Times, “We automatically talk about parents but not about teens as having opinions on this issue.”

VaxTeen offers information for teenagers about vaccines, including resources on how to educate their parents on why they are important. The information spans CDC vaccine guides, suggestions on how to talk to parents about vaccination, as well as information on the various myths and misconceptions about vaccine safety.

When teens attempt to talk to their vaccine-hesitant parents, Breuner’s advice is to go in with an open mind and a willingness to understand their parents’ fears and concerns, but to continue to reinforce the fact that the vaccines are safe. “The data is really clear,” she said.

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It’s important to understand parents’ fear is based on their desire to do what is best for their child. Breuner advises engaging with their questions or concerns with an open mind. “Families are coming in with tons and tons of questions, which are legitimate questions,” she said. When faced with these questions, she tries to unpack their concerns as much as she can, in order to address their root fears.

For teenagers with hesitant parents, she recommends that they find a source, whether it is their pediatrician or a community leader, who their parents trust, as appealing to an authority is often the most effective way to get them to change their minds. “Help them find a reason to [get] their kids vaccinated,” Breuner said.

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Research vaccine self-consent laws 

In addition to providing educational material, VaxTeen also includes detailed, state-by-state information on vaccine self-consent laws. In some states, teenagers might be able to provide their own consent for the vaccine, while in others, they will have to either convince their parents or wait.

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The rules on parental consent for minors getting vaccinated vary from state to state. For young children, parental consent is required for all vaccines. As they reach their teenage years, the laws vary. For children between the ages of 12–15, only five states allow exceptions: In North Carolina, teenagers can get vaccinated without parental consent; in Tennessee and Alabama, they can do so at age 14; in Oregon, the age of self-consent is 15; while Iowa lets the health care provider decide. Once teenagers turn 16, there are more exceptions in more states, but the specifics vary widely.

Teenagers who want to get vaccinated but lack parental consent are in a tough position—they’d be forgiven for feeling like they don’t have power over their bodies and their futures. As tough as this situation is, they still have some limited options, whether it is trying to allay their parents’ fears, or giving their own consent—provided that is legal where they live.

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Source link: lifehacker.com

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