In recent years, a concerning number of parents have decided against vaccinating their children, and it's a decision that can have a lasting impact on the rest of their child's life, as well as pose a threat to public health. But some politicians are looking to put a stop to this. For instance, in New York, a new bill lawmakers are working on would let teens get vaccinated without their parents' permission and take control of decisions regarding their health.
Two lawmakers in New York are developing a measure that would allow teenagers to make the decision for themselves to be vaccinated, even if their parents are (or were) against vaccinating them as children, as The New York Times reported this week. This bill would allow any teen over the age of 14 to be vaccinated and "given booster shots for a range of diseases," such as measles, mumps, and tetanus, The New York Times explained. Most importantly, according to USA Today, it would give them the power to make responsible decisions for themselves, even if their parents chose otherwise.
Democratic New York Assemblywoman and one of the bill's sponsors, Patricia Fahy, explained in a statement to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: "Older teenagers, in consultation with their healthcare providers, should have the freedom to make their own decisions about whether or not to protect themselves from long-term health risks by getting vaccinated."
That's significant, as about 100,000 children in the United States are not vaccinated against any of the main diseases for which vaccines are recommended, according to an October 2018 report by CBS News. And after a recent measles outbreak in New York, it certainly makes sense why some teens would want to ensure they're protected from these dangerous and preventable diseases.
The consequences of not vaccinating children can not only be deadly, it can be costly, too. Last year, when an unvaccinated 6-year-old boy in Oregon was diagnosed with tetanus after getting a cut on his forehead, according to The Oregonian, his family racked up more than $800,000 in medical bills. Thankfully, the boy survived.
This could be why teens are trying to take matters into their own hands. In the beginning of March, Ethan Lindenberger, a teenager from Ohio testified in front of Congress, claiming that he made the decision for himself to get vaccinated after his mom chose not to do so throughout his childhood, according to NBC News.
Lindenberger explained the reasoning behind his decision during an appearance on Good Morning America in February:
I had grown up just hearing that I wasn't vaccinated because it was best for me, and that it was healthy, and that vaccines were bad and that they have these bad side effects. I saw that there were a lot of people with different opinions, and as I explored those opinions, I came to the conclusion that they were good and beneficial.
Lindenberg also told Good Morning America that since he has gone public with his story, other teens have come forward about wanting to get vaccinated against their parents wishes.
Certain states do allow children to make health care decisions for themselves, according to Spectrum News. In California, for example, minors at the age of 12 can consent to receiving vaccines that prevent STIs, and 14-year-olds in Alabama and Oregon can consent to do the same. But, there currently is no federal law that allows minors to get vaccinations for themselves, as Spectrum News explained.
It's important to note that this bill has not yet been passed or made into a law in New York, but it's certainly started a much-needed conversation.
Although parents just want what's best for their kids, their kids also want what's best for themselves and to have control of their own health. And if this law does get passed in New York, then it would allow teens to take make informed decisions with their doctor in order to protect themselves and others against deadly diseases.