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October 7, 2019

Adolescent Consent to Vaccination in the Age of Vaccine-Hesitant Parents

Author Affiliations
  • 1Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement, George Washington University School of Nursing, Washington, DC
  • 2Milken Institute School of Public Health, Department of Health Policy and Management, George Washington University, Washington, DC
  • 3Center for Bioethics and Humanities, State University of New York Upstate Medical University, Syracuse
  • 4Department of Pediatrics, State University of New York Upstate Medical University, Syracuse
JAMA Pediatr. Published online October 7, 2019. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2019.3330

As children of vaccine-hesitant parents become adolescents, they develop their individual perspectives on vaccination. One of these adolescents, Ethan Lindenberger, researched vaccines, discussed them with trusted adults, and ultimately got vaccinated.1 His testimony to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions made national headlines.1 Many other adolescents are similarly seeking advice on how to get vaccinated. While vaccination against measles and other conditions occurs in early childhood, vaccine-hesitant parents have also refused human papillomavirus vaccination, routinely provided for adolescents beginning at age 11 or 12 years. And they have refused to let their children catch up on any missed early childhood vaccinations. Prior research has shown that adolescents feel generally marginalized in the decision-making process, yet they desire to participate in decisions.2 Their main obstacle to vaccination is that most states require an individual to be 18 years or older to consent to medical procedures.3 We argue for expansion of the rights of adolescents to make their own decisions to be vaccinated against serious and potentially life-threatening diseases without requiring parental consent and involvement.

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