California State Senator Scott Wiener introduces SB 866 – The Teens Choose Vaccines Act – to allow youth 12 and older to get vaccinated without parental consent

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Picture by Arek Socha from Pixabay

January 22, 2022 – SACRAMENTO – On Friday, Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced Senate Bill 866, the Teens Choose Vaccines Act. SB 866 allows youth 12 and older to be vaccinated without parental consent. SB 866 applies to all vaccines approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that meet the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Young people aged 12 and over are already allowed to make crucial decisions about their bodies without parental consent, including getting human papillomavirus (HPV) and hepatitis B vaccinations, accessing reproductive health care and mental health care, among other health services. SB 866 would simply build on existing law to expand young people’s access to vaccines.

“Giving young people the autonomy to receive life-saving vaccines, regardless of their parents’ beliefs or work schedules, is essential for their physical and mental health. said Senator Scott Wiener. “COVID-19 is a deadly virus for the unvaccinated, and it is unconscionable for teenagers to be blocked from the vaccine because a parent refuses or cannot take their child to a vaccination site. So many teenagers want to be vaccinated to be able to lead a more normal life – playing sports or in a group, traveling, visiting friends – but they are prevented from doing so because of their parents’ political opinions or the inability to find the time. also make schools less safe and threaten our ability to keep schools open.In states like Alabama and South Carolina, teenagers are already allowed to be vaccinated without parental consent.Young Californians should also have the right to stay healthy and safe.

With the persistence of the COVID-19 pandemic and the widespread availability of highly effective and safe vaccines to treat severe COVID-19 disease, it is more important than ever that young adults have access to vaccines. More than a quarter of young people aged 12 to 17, or almost a million young people, are still not vaccinated. These low vaccination rates can have disastrous consequences for adolescents; a recent study found that nearly all adolescents who needed intensive care for COVID-19 were unvaccinated and all those who died were unvaccinated.

Under current law, young people between the ages of 12 and 17 cannot be vaccinated without parental consent, unless the vaccine is specifically intended to prevent a sexually transmitted disease. This poses a significant barrier to adolescent health in California, especially in situations where parents and children have differing opinions about vaccines. Parental consent requirements for vaccines are also a barrier in cases where a child suffers from medical neglect, or simply because working or otherwise busy parents are unavailable to take their children for medical visits. Low-income children may wait longer for vaccinations because their parents can work longer hours – often without paid time off – and cannot take them for vaccinations as soon as they are eligible.

12- and 17-year-olds can also get contraceptives and abortions, as well as medical treatment for sexually transmitted infections, drug and alcohol disorders, injuries resulting from sexual assault and violence marriage, and mental health issues – all without parental consent. . Additionally, various states already allow minors to access vaccines without parental consent, including Alabama, South Carolina, Washington, DC, Oregon and Rhode Island.

This problem has implications far beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. Measles, for example, spreads effectively among unvaccinated young people, whose parents have unfortunately chosen to prevent them from receiving a potentially life-saving vaccine. Measles was, at one point, considered eliminated in the United States. But misinformation and hesitation about the vaccine allowed it to spread again.

Allowing young people to get vaccinated is essential not only for their physical health, but also for their mental health. The US Department of Health and Human Services found that teens ages 12 to 17 are seven times more likely to have a new or recurring mental health condition after falling ill with COVID-19. And studies have found that school closures over the past two years have had negative effects on adolescent mental health and academic achievement, and widened school disparities by grade. While school closures may have been necessary earlier in the pandemic when vaccines weren’t widely available, now we have the tools to keep students and teachers healthy and in the classroom.

Senator Wiener is a member of the California Legislature’s Vaccine Task Force. SB 866 is sponsored by ProtectUS, Teens for Vaccines, GenUP (Generation UP), and MAX the Vax. Senator Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) is co-author of SB 866. Assemblyman Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) is co-lead author of SB 866, and it is also co-authored by members of Assembly Evan Low (D-Campbell), Akilah Weber (D-La Mesa), Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters) and Senator Josh Newman (D-Orange County).

“In my opinion, this California policy change is so important because it’s not just for COVID, it’s for all of the vaccines that protect us,” said Nyla, a 7th grade student in San Francisco. “I can’t think of a good reason why laws shouldn’t let people my age choose to reduce our risk of getting really sick. And vaccines not only make us safer, they also protect our friends and family. »

“We appreciate Senator Wiener hearing voices from teenagers in California and across the country,” said Crystal Strait, Chair of the Board, ProtectUS. “Adolescents have the right to protect themselves from preventable death and disability. Under current California law, minors 12 and older can independently consent to treatment for infectious diseases. It’s just common sense that they should be able to consent to vaccines that will prevent serious illness in the first place. This bill is a natural extension of existing laws in place to prevent the spread of infectious diseases such as COVID. »

“Ensuring students have fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines is essential if we are to recover from this global pandemic,” said Alvin, a college freshman and executive director of GenUP. “Receiving the COVID-19 vaccine is a matter of physical safety, potentially even life or death. We need our students to be both safe and healthy on school campuses. Allowing students to give their own consent to the vaccine will ensure that all students, regardless of family status, will have the autonomy to protect their physical health and well-being. Let’s keep our students healthy!”

“As a pediatrician specializing in the care of adolescents and young adults in the Department of Pediatrics at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital for more than 40 years, I am pleased to be here to join the youth and Senator Wiener in support the Teens Choose Vaccine Act,” said Dr. Charles Irwin. “The Teens Choose Vaccine Act is another critical step in improving the lives of adolescents by empowering them to make healthy choices around essential vaccines that all young people should be able to obtain in the second decade of life without any barriers. Adolescence is a learning period to take on greater responsibility in making health care decisions for the rest of their lives. Laws should improve access to care and not create barriers to obtaining essentia carel.

“I have been a Registered Nurse working at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland for 35 years,” said Wendy Bloom, pediatric nurse. “I now work in an outpatient infusion center where we care for many very vulnerable and immunocompromised patients. Some are so due to genetic conditions that make them vulnerable like sickle cell anemia and some receive drugs that suppress their immune system. These children have cancers, rheumatological, gastrointestinal, neurological or endocrinological diseases. We take care of children after a bone marrow transplant.

She continued: “I have spoken on more than one occasion with teenagers in these circumstances who want to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Many cannot even go to school due to their vulnerable condition. I tried to convince their skeptical parents that vaccinating them is so important to protect them. Teenagers fully understand this and want to get it, but without parental approval they have no choice but to stay unvaccinated. I had a teenage girl who told me she really wanted it but felt powerless to convince her parents to allow it. His father could not be moved. Senator Wiener’s bill is essential to help these teenagers.

“We know how important vaccines are to protect the health of adolescents, their families and their communities,” said San Francisco Chief Health Officer Dr. Grant Colfax. “Our San Francisco teens have some of the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the state and nation with over 90% fully vaccinated, and they’re now being bolstered. This age group has been a critical part of our response to end the pandemic. This legislation would help increase vaccination rates among youth 12 and older across California.

“Teens are as essential to ending this pandemic as any other member of their community, and we hear loud and clear that they want to be part of the solution,” said Assemblyman Wicks. “At this critical time in our collective efforts to fight COVID, it is unacceptable that this life-saving vaccine be excluded from the decisions that Californian teenagers are already empowered to make about their bodies, their health and their future. I am proud to be a co-sponsor of this bill that will right that wrong.
Source: Senator Scott Wiener

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