Since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, public health experts have maintained that the widespread vaccination of children is essential to reaching herd immunity in the U.S. Although data shows that kids tend to have less severe reactions to covid-19, the vast majority of kids are still unvaccinated while the population of unvaccinated adults has shrunk, leaving minors even more vulnerable to contracting the virus. The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine was approved for usage in anyone over the age of 12 back in early May, and Moderna is currently awaiting FDA approval for their vaccine to be available to the same age group.
Teenagers are one of the age groups that has experienced some of the worst mental health outcomes during the pandemic, so it’s understandable that many of them are eager to get the covid-19 vaccine so they can more safely see friends, elderly family members, and do other cool teen activities. But with one in four American adults saying they would refuse the vaccine as recently as April of this year, and vaccination rates across the country continuing to drop, it’s no surprise that for many adolescents, the biggest barrier to getting the covid-19 vaccine is their parents’ hesitance.
In a recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, only three out of 10 parents with kids between the ages of 12 and 17 said that they would allow their children to be vaccinated immediately. Many said they planned to wait until there was long-term data available on the safety of the vaccines or until their child’s school required that they receive the vaccine. Even parents who have been vaccinated are hesitant to allow their children to receive it, according to pediatricians.
Currently, 40 states require parental consent for the vaccination of minors under 18, and in Nebraska, the age is 19. But some cities and states, including Washington D.C., New York, New Jersey, and Minnesota, are attempting to relax these strict medical consent rules, with many looking to mirror statutes that allow minors to consent to the HPV vaccine. Other states are going in the opposite direction and making it more difficult for teenagers under the age of 18 to obtain the covid-19 vaccine specifically. In South Carolina, teenagers can typically provide their own consent at 16, but a bill passing through the state legislature would explicitly prevent medical providers from giving the covid-19 vaccine shot to any minors without parental consent.
So countless teenagers with vaccine-hesitant parents have been left on their own to figure out whether it’s possible to circumvent their parents’ wishes and consent to receive the covid-19 vaccine on their own. For many, it won’t be possible without their parents’ consent, forcing them to wait indefinitely before being vaccinated against this potentially deadly virus. It’s frankly wild to see parents flouting medical guidance and saying they’d rather let their child catch the coronavirus than allow them to be vaccinated, especially at the same moment when public health experts are warning that the highly contagious Delta variant will likely infect more children than previous covid-19 strains.