California Democrats have put forward a proposal that would allow children over the age of 12 to receive vaccinations without their parents' consent or even their knowledge.
The bill, SB 866, was introduced by Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener, a member of the legislature's Vaccine Work Group caucus, which according to Politico was formed to introduce legislation intended to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and combat vaccine misinformation.
Wiener's legislation would allow any child 12 or older to consent to receive any vaccine approved by the FDA and recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition to the COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by Pfizer, children would be able to make their own decisions about immunizations for the flu, measles, chicken pox, and other diseases without any parental say-so.
“With Covid, there are a huge number of teenagers not vaccinated — about a million — and a lot of them want to be vaccinated,” Wiener told Politico. He mentioned that teens who aren't vaccinated may be excluded from participating in sports or other extra-curricular activities.
"When these kids can’t get vaccinated, we’re preventing them from having the best possible teenage years," he said.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced a vaccine mandate for children age 12 and over last October to attend in-person classes at public or private schools in the state. The mandate will go into effect once the FDA fully approves a COVID-19 vaccine for children and removes the Emergency Use Authorization that currently enables parents to have their kids vaccinated. It is expected to take effect later this year.
Vaccine consent laws in other states permit teens to be vaccinated at various ages, but the California proposal would be the most permissive. Wiener told Fox News that Alabama allows teens to make their own vaccine decisions beginning at age 14, Oregon at 15, and Rhode Island and South Carolina at 16.
"Giving young people the autonomy to receive life-saving vaccines, regardless of their parents’ beliefs or work schedules, is essential for their physical and mental health," he said. "It’s unconscionable for teens to be blocked from the vaccine because a parent either refuses or cannot take their child to a vaccination site."
The Democratic lawmaker anticipates backlash for his bill. The L.A. Times reports that other state lawmakers have been targeted by protesters and have even received death threats over previous bills that have tightened vaccine requirements. In 2019, State Sen. Richard Pan (D), who introduced strict vaccine requirements for schoolchildren in 2015, was assaulted by an anti-vaccine activist after he introduced more requirements that year.
“There is a very organized group of anti-vaxxers who are a very small minority in California,” Wiener told the L.A. Times. “They don’t even come close to a majority view, but they are very organized, loud and abusive, and I am sure they will be organized, loud and abusive about this bill. My eyes are wide open that there will be a personal cost to me as there has been to Sen. Pan, but this is about saving lives.”
Wiener's bill was introduced after a California mother complained in October that her 13-year-old son received a COVID-19 vaccine at school without her consent. His legislation would make that legal.