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Contentious Bill Allowing Vaccinating Children Without Parental Consent Passes California Senate Committee

The California Senate Judiciary Committee has passed a bill allowing children between the ages of 12 and 17 to be vaccinated without parental consent. If passed, SB 866 would leave California with the least restrictive medical consent laws of any state in the country.

Under current California law, minors cannot receive vaccinations without parental consent, with exceptions carved out only for vaccinations for sexually transmitted diseases such as hepatitis B and human papillomavirus (HPV). Medical interventions relating to sex and gender have generally been subject to less parental supervision in California;  minors as young as 12 have access to birth control, abortion and even gender reassignment hormone treatments without parental notification or consent, often at tax payer expense. SB 866 would expand that independent discretion to any vaccine approved by the Food and Drug Administration and the Center for Disease Control, most notably the COVID-19 vaccines, and would apply to shots for influenza, measles, chickenpox and the like. 

The COVID-19 vaccination is required to attend school in California, but that mandate comes with a broad ‘personal belief’ exemption that comes with all new vaccines and has not yet been removed from the COVID-19 vaccination requirement despite some political pressure to do so.

Sen. Scott Weiner, one of the sponsors of the bill, argues that the legislation “will empower teenagers to protect their own health by getting vaccinated,” noting “almost a million California teenagers are unvaccinated, and for a lot of those teens it’s because their parents either refuse to get them vaccinated or they have not yet gotten around to it.”

Ani Chaglasian, an advocate of the bill from the organization Teens for Vaccines, argued that she and many of her peers would benefit from the proposed policy. “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.” Allowing students to be vaccinated at school without parental consent or notification would mean students could receive treatment “without having to deal with backlash in their families.”

Nicole Pearson, an attorney who testified in committee against the bill, thinks that approach is wrongheaded. 

“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 said.

School aged children are by all accounts the least “at risk” age group for COVID-19, and some concerns have been raised about elevated levels of heart complications arising in adolescents and young adults who have taken the vaccine, with the data suggesting that the age cohort covered in this bill faces the least health risk from infection and possibly the most from an adverse vaccine reaction.

Parental rights in healthcare and education have become increasingly divisive topics in recent years, with controversies surrounding critical race theory and the aforementioned policies regarding sexuality and gender in the classroom.