March 22, 2022
A federal judge has temporarily prevented a District of Columbia law from going into effect that would have allowed children to get vaccinated – including with the COVID-19 vaccine – without parental consent.
The Minor Consent for Vaccinations Amendment Act said children as young as 11 could be vaccinated so long as a medical provider considers them capable of informed consent about the need and risks in the vaccine.
The Council of the District of Columbia law went into effect in 2020 and was not written with COVID vaccines in mind. Council members thought the law might help more teens get vaccinated against the sexually transmitted virus HPV, The Washington Post said.
Two lawsuits opposing the law were filed by parents. Judge Trevor McFadden of the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia issued a preliminary injunction to keep the law from going into effect last Friday, saying the MCA targets religious parents, The Post said.
One suit filed by parents of children attending district public and charter schools said the law “subverts the right and duty of parents to make informed decisions about whether their children should receive vaccinations,” The Post said. A second suit filed by a Maryland parent said his daughter tried to get a vaccine in the district without his knowledge and against his religious objections.
The Children’s Health Defense, the anti-vaccine group run by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., brought one of the lawsuits.
The judge said he thought parents could successfully argue that the law was unconstitutional because it violates their rights to religious freedom, The Post said. McFadden also said, “their children will exploit the MCA to get vaccinated behind their (parents’) backs.”
The American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and other medical groups filed an amicus brief in the case, saying that while it’s good for parents to be involved in their children’s medical decisions, “occasionally, parental involvement is impossible, impractical, or even harmful.”
D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh, who introduced the legislation, told The Post there’s no evidence the plaintiff’s children had been vaccinated without parental consent. “To have standing to sue, you have to have a concrete injury that’s immediate. It can’t be speculative. And there’s a lot of speculation in there,” she said.
The Kaiser Family Foundation says 42 states require parental consent to receive a COVID vaccine.