Should teenagers be allowed to decide for themselves whether to get the COVID-19 vaccine, with or without their parents’ permission?
State Sen. Amanda Cappelletti says yes.
Cappelletti (D-East Norriton) is proposing a bill that would permit teens ages 14 and over to consent to age-appropriate, CDC recommended immunizations, as long as that consent is “knowing and voluntary.”
While the bill has not yet been drafted, Cappelletti is circulating a memo seeking co-sponsors.
Cappelletti discovered the issue when, at a vaccination event hosted by her office, a teenage boy had to be turned away from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine because he was not accompanied by a parent.
She is bringing this legislation forward so that young people like him will be able to get vaccinated for CDC recommended vaccines from their primary care physicians who know their medical history without needing parental consent. In addition, Cappelletti believes her bill would increase conversations between minors and doctors and give teens more bodily autonomy.
“By lowering the age of consent for age-appropriate, CDC-recommended vaccinations, we accomplish multiple goals, including aligning Pennsylvania policy with many other states,” Cappelletti said. “Young people learn about affirmative consent and bodily autonomy. They learn how to have conversations with their primary care physicians. We can better address vaccine hesitancy. Hopefully, it results in higher vaccination rates, providing better protection for ourselves and the vulnerable people around us who, medically, cannot be vaccinated.”
Republican state Rep. Torren Ecker (R-Adams/Cumberland) opposes this approach. Like many opponents, he sees this as a direct assault on parental rights.
“I’m a believer in parental rights in a lot of areas, including medical decisions,” Ecker said. “Parents generally know what’s best for their children, and I believe we should respect that unique bond between parents and children.”
Pennsylvania allows children in this age group to receive mental health treatment without parental consent. However, women under 18 need either parental consent or a judicial override to receive an abortion.
Delaware Valley residents have a mixed view of letting teenagers make this medical decision without their parent’s involvement.
“Honestly, I don’t think they should have to. If schools make the vaccine mandatory in the fall for those who can safely take it (students, faculty and staff), then we wouldn’t have this issue. But there is precedent in a few states permitting minors to get abortions without notifying parents. So, if this can be done, why not a procedure that will save lives of these children, their families and their communities?” said Carol Harris-Shapiro, of Cheltenham.
Lamar Freed, also a Cheltenham resident, said, “Denying children proven vaccines is child abuse. Permission to go to psychotherapy is granted when teens are 14. Surely they can take the jab if they want it.”
Laura Stacey of Berwyn said, “That is not a yes or no question. Age and maturity would play a part in the answer. My daughter turned 17 in November. I let her make most of her medical decisions and have since she was 16.”
But Kristine Adams, also of Berwyn, disagreed, saying, “In Pennsylvania, the age of consent for mental health treatment is 14. So, a 14-year-old could refuse help. I don’t think that is appropriate, so I would say no. If anything, be at least 17 years old.”