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VERIFY: Law giving children consent over parents in vaccinations was in DC, not national

Some headlines claim Congress passed a law that could allow for children to receive vaccines without parental consent. That's not the case.

For several months now, articles and social media posts that claim Congress passed a new bill making it possible for kids to get vaccines without parental consent have circulated online. The posts are angled in a way to claim that the government is trying to take away parents’ rights to make decisions about their children's health, but they are false.

THE QUESTION

Did Congress pass a bill that allows children to get vaccines without parental consent?

THE ANSWER

No. The local legislative body for Washington, D.C. -- not Congress -- recently passed a law that allows some minors to consent to a vaccination without their parents’ permission.

WHY WE ARE VERIFYING

This claim has been around for a few months now and shows no signs of going away, despite no changes being made at a federal level.

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WHAT WE FOUND

The bill, which was introduced to the D.C. Council in March 2019, became law on December 23, 2020. The law allows for minors in D.C. to consent to a vaccination.

But the final text of the law has stipulations. The minor must be 11-years-old or older and must be capable of meeting an informed consent standard. That standard is met if they are capable of comprehending the need for, the nature of, and any significant risks inherent in vaccinations. Additionally, the vaccine must be recommended by the United States Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices for the minor to consent to it.

That committee, called ACIP for short, has a list of 24 vaccinations they provide recommendations for. This list includes vaccinations for measles, chickenpox and the flu, and recently added the COVID-19 vaccine in December when its distribution began to the public.

This kind of law isn’t new at a local or even state level, either. A 2019 resolution to the American Medical Association notes 18 states that had laws allowing for “mature minors” as young as 12 years old to consent to vaccinations without parental approval. That resolution defined a “mature minor” similarly to D.C.’s requirement that the minor is able to comprehend the need for and risks of vaccines.

But a similar law has never been passed at a federal level. A minor can only consent to vaccinations without parental approval in localities that allow it. 

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