The D.C. Council has approved a bill giving children 11 and older the option to get government-recommended vaccines without their parents’ approval.
The “Minor Consent for Vaccinations Amendment Act” passed with a 12-1 vote, with 8th Ward Councilmember Trayon White the sole dissenter.
The bill, which Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh introduced, includes various measures to help ensure confidentiality. It directs health care providers to seek reimbursement directly from insurers, and it requires doctors to submit an immunization record directly to the young patient’s school instead of a parent.
The bill was introduced in March 2019, back when a vaccine debate usually centered on something like a measles shot — and way before the phrase “COVID-19” had entered the nation’s vocabulary.
“A child needs to be protected against the dangers of things like measles, other diseases that cause death, and the community needs to be protected so that diseases that were once thought to be eliminated are not coming back,” Cheh said during a Zoom meeting Tuesday.
White insisted that his reservations about the bill centered on circumventing parental decisions, and he contended that children are not capable of making major health decisions.
“Parents have a fundamental right to direct the upbringing, education and care of their children,” he said.
But Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said the public interest supersedes parenting concerns, citing the pandemic.
“That’s how important public health is. There’s a very compelling state interest there,” he said.
And as Cheh pointed out, a “gatekeeper” like a physician would decide whether the minor is capable of meeting a standard of “informed consent.”
The bill will get another council vote before it can go to Mayor Muriel Bowser’s desk.