Teens should be able to get vaccines without consent from parents, say NY lawmakers
A bill in New York would let older kids get vaccinations against their parents' wishes.
- Teens 14 and older should be able to get vaccinated on their own, says a new bill in New York.
- Lawmakers were inspired by Ethan Lindenberger, an Ohio teen who fought to take vaccines against his mom's wishes.
- Anti-vaccination attitudes have been blamed for recent measles outbreaks.
Should kids who are old enough be allowed to make their own vaccination decisions? Such is the proposal being considered in New York, where a new bill would allow teens over 14 to get some vaccines without having to ask their parents.
What makes the bill particularly relevant is that there have been a growing number of outbreaks of preventable diseases across the country. For instance, in 2018, the majority of measles outbreaks in New York happened primarily among the unvaccinated, as reports ABC News. A major 2019 measles outbreak in Washington State is also being blamed mainly on the people who didn't get vaccinated.
The NY bill was also inspired by the national story of the 18-year-old Ethan Lindenberger of Ohio who went against his mother's wishes to get vaccinated. In March, this high school senior testified in Congress before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions how false information from social media indoctrinated his mother into anti-vaccine views. She came to believe that vaccines cause autism and brain damage — claims that have no scientific basis.
I feel like if my mom didn't interact with that information, and she wasn't swayed by those arguments and stories, it could've potentially changed everything,' said Lindenberger in an interview. 'My entire family could've been vaccinated.
The New York bill, if passed, would have the state join Oregon, South Carolina and Pennsylvania, who now have similar laws on their books.
Whether the bill actually will pass is unclear, with the New York Assemblymember Patricia Fahy cautioning that there's a "strong anti-vaccination constituency" that will fight against it in the coming weeks.
Ethan Lindenberger Opening Statement on Vaccines - Senate Hearing 3/5/19
Ethan Lindenberger Opening Statement — Vaccines Senate Hearing 3/5/19
The bill is supported by the New York chapters of the American Academy of Pediatrics who wrote in a memo that "young people are often more conscious about the misinformation on the internet and can in many cases disagree with parents who have bought into unfounded and dangerous anti-immunization diatribes and pseudo-science."
As such, young people should have the right to protect themselves against diseases that have effective immunizations, argue the pediatricians.
The way vaccines work is by establishing herd immunity, where the whole community is protected as a result of mass vaccination. For this to work against measles, 92 to 95 percent of the populace needs to be immunized.
Political activism may get people invested in politics, and affect urgently needed change, but it comes at the expense of tolerance and healthy democratic norms.