NY Lawmakers Push To Let Teens Be Vaccinated Without Parental Consent

by Julie Scagell
Image via asiseeit/Getty Images

If the bill were passed, New York would join three other states with similar laws

With outbreaks of preventable diseases continuing to pop up at an alarming rate, two New York state lawmakers are hoping to push through a bill allowing minors to be vaccinated without their parents’ consent.

Senator Liz Krueger, a Democrat from Manhattan, and Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy, a Democrat from Albany announced last week they will be introducing a bill that would allow minors ages 14 and older to receive an immunization without parental consent.

This comes as New York continues to deal with a measles outbreak throughout New York state where at least 144 cases of measles have been confirmed since October 2018.

The bill also was inspired in part by the testimony of 18-year-old Ethan Lindenberger of Ohio who explained before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions why he chose to be immunized against his mother’s wishes. “My parents think vaccines are some kind of government scheme. It’s stupid and I’ve had countless arguments over the topic,” Lindenberger said in a Reddit post before going before Congress. “But, because of their beliefs I’ve never been vaccinated for anything, god knows how I’m still alive.”

Today, there are still 17 states in the U.S. that allow parents to refuse required vaccines for philosophical or religious reasons, and as a result, put millions who are actually unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons at risk. The World Health Organization named “vaccine hesitancy” as a top 10 biggest global health threat in 2019.

State health officials have said the outbreaks have come in large part because of unvaccinated children who claim religious exemptions, ABC News reported. But the bill would also allow teens to have more access to vaccines and take control over their healthcare.

Most vaccine-preventable diseases are spread from person to person, so if one person gets an infectious disease, they can spread it to others. That’s why ‘herd immunity’ is so important — you aren’t just making that decision for your child — you’re making it for everyone around you.

“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,” Fahy said in a statement. The bill is supported by the New York chapters of the American Academy of Pediatrics who said that “young people are often more conscious about the misinformation on the internet and can in many cases disagree with parents who have bought into unfounded and dangerous anti-immunization diatribes and pseudo-science.”

Children in New York are required to be immunized for measles, poliomyelitis, mumps, diphtheria, rubella, HiB, hepatitis B and varicella but the state allows exemptions for those who claim immunizations conflict with their religious beliefs or if a doctor certifies those immunizations could put a child who has a preexisting condition in danger.

The New York bill, if passed, would have the state join Oregon, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania, who have similar laws in place.