Medical Groups Join Lawsuit to Support DC’s Vaccination Law for Children
WASHINGTON — A group of medical associations is speaking out to support the District of Columbia’s new law that allows children as young as 11 years old to request vaccinations from health care professionals without their parents’ permission.
The plaintiffs submitted an amicus brief last week in the case of Mazer v. D.C. Department of Health, which was filed by a father angered when doctors counseled his 16-year-old daughter about seeking vaccination without telling her parents.
Disputes about vaccinating children are becoming more heated as the fall school semester begins and COVID-19 cases surge, particularly among children who have less resistance to the delta variant than previous strains of the disease.
Joshua Mazer argues the advice from MedStar Georgetown Pediatrics doctors violated the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 and deprived him of the right to participate in medical decisions of his daughter.
The law requires health care providers who administer vaccines to provide a Vaccine Information Statement to the vaccine recipient, their parent or legal guardian before each dose.
A group led by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association disagreed with Mazer’s complaint in a brief filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
D.C.’s Minor Consent Act “allows adolescents to receive immunizations in circumstances when they may otherwise not be able to obtain them at all, providing individual patients and the general public better protection from vaccine-preventable diseases,” the brief says.
The D.C. Council enacted the Minor Consent Act last December originally as a response to a measles outbreak among children a year earlier.
Since then, it has gained new urgency as the delta variant of COVID-19 causes a resurgence of the disease.
“A minor’s guardian may be unable to participate in a minor’s care due to work, illness or other issues in the home,” the brief says. It asks the judge to dismiss Mazer’s complaint.
D.C.’s Minor Consent Act authorizes minors at least 11 years old to “consent to receive a vaccine where the minor is capable of meeting the informed consent standard” and the vaccine is government-recommended.
The law allows doctors to decide whether their minor patients meet the standard for informed consent, defined as the ability “to comprehend the need for, the nature of, and any significant risks ordinarily inherent in the medical care.”
After the vaccinations, the law says doctors can “seek reimbursement, without parental consent, directly from the insurer” and “submit the immunization record directly to the minor’s school,” instead of their parents.
A new survey released this week shows concerns might be valid that too many children are unvaccinated.
About half of parents either oppose the coronavirus vaccines or are waiting for them to be certified as safe before getting their children vaccinated, the survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation says.
Children 12 to 17 years old have the lowest vaccination rate of any age group at 41%.
The Food and Drug Administration is scheduled to decide by Labor Day whether to change the status of the Pfizer vaccine from emergency use to full approval, meaning that it is certified as safe.
Many parents in the Kaiser Family Foundation survey said they are waiting out of concern about long-term consequences of the vaccines or serious side effects for their children.
Meanwhile, lawmakers in some states are taking action that would prevent school officials from requiring vaccinations before children could return to classes.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is encouraging child vaccinations. Nevertheless, seven states have approved legislation to restrict public schools from requiring them.
States that have enacted the legislation are Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Montana, Oklahoma and Utah. At least two dozen other states are considering the same kind of laws.