January 30, 2019
DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince were right: Sometimes parents just don't understand. When we're arguing over screen time, it's not the end of the world, but when kids and parents can't agree on something as important as getting vaccinated, it's a different story.
Despite the overwhelming evidence that vaccines save lives, there are still some parents who choose not to vaccinate their children. The World Health Organization has stressed the importance of getting your child vaccinated to protect them, and others, from deadly diseases and has named anti-vaccination a global health threat for 2019. As the children of these anti-vaxxer parents come to learn about immunization on their own and decide getting vaccinated is the best choice for their health, they turn to the Internet for advice.
In September 2018, a 15-year-old Reddit user by the name of Danny691261 posted his heart-wrenching dilemma to the r/LegalAdvice section of the site. As he put it, "I have spent the last 4 years trying to convince my mother that vaccines are safe. I haven't succeeded. So instead I am trying to research how to be vaccinated without my mother's consent."
A school nurse, a "health insurance guy," and several other parents and non-parents tried to offer some advice, but Danny691261 didn't find a definitive answer. Because while there are some states that allow minors to consent to vaccinations for themselves at age 16, this particular Reddit user didn't live in one of them.
And Danny691261 isn't the only teen in this position. IFL Science flagged a tweet from game designer and author Andrea Phillips that summed up the unfortunate situation.
So what's a kid to do?! Minors wishing to get vaccinated without parental consent have relatively few options under the law, according to Vaxopedia, a site created by Vincent Iannelli, M.D., a board-certified pediatrician and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, in an effort to educate parents on vaccines. They can petition a court for emancipation, but this takes all control away from the parents—not just the power of consenting to their child being vaccinated.
What Vaxopedia recommends minors do first is try and talk to their parents about why they don't want the child to get vaccinated. The site also advises that kids and teens "[ask] someone, like your pediatrician, to be an advocate [for vaccination] and talk to your parents with you."
And if all else fails, kids may have to wait until they're old enough to get vaccinated without parental consent. This leaves them at risk of getting preventable diseases, though, so it's best to try and help the parents understand vaccines are safe, effective, and necessary.