WASHINGTON — The D.C. Council is inching closer to approving a bill that would allow children as young as 11 years old to get recommended vaccines without their parent’s approval. There would be some requirements, but direction overall would come from a doctor. A final vote from the council is expected Tuesday.
When Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh introduced the Minor Consent for Vaccinations Amendment Act of 2019, it was in response to a measles outbreak that spread from coast to coast in the U.S.
At the time, many wondered if the District would become the next hot spot as vaccination rates trended downward in the city.
“I think it should be worrisome to people when children are not vaccinated for these diseases," Cheh said.
The bill would give kids as young as 11 years old the green light to get a vaccination without parental consent if a doctor recommends it. The doctor would also determine if the child meets a certain standard of "informed consent" before administering the vaccine.
To prevent the parents from knowing, health providers would be required to bill insurers directly and send vaccination records to the school.
“The gateway again is the physician who has to make this judgment that 'is that person, 11,12, 15, 18 capable of giving informed consent and is it consistent with the physician’s medical judgment?' " Cheh said.
Asha Pinkney Gillus has a 5-year-old daughter and a 14-year-old son. She tells WUSA9 the measure is concerning to her household.
She does not believe her teenager is old enough or "emotionally ready" to make decisions, without her help.
“I am 100% against that [the bill],” Gillus said. “I think it violates my fundamental right as a parent to manage the upbringing and the health and welfare of my child.”
"If my child goes and gets a vaccination and has an adverse reaction to that vaccination, I won't know what’s going on because I’ve never been told my child has been inoculated," Gillus said.
According to a July 6 letter to D.C. School leaders from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, fewer families have paid visits to the doctor’s office because of the pandemic. Officials cite a lack of access to care and families avoiding offices overall.
Due to fewer visits, the letter said “many children in the District are not fully immunized,” which could make another infectious outbreak worse.
In a legislation meeting Tuesday, the bill received full support from 12 councilmembers. One member was absent. A final vote is expected Tuesday, Nov. 17 before heading to Mayor Muriel Bowser's office for review.
“While the intent is good, I think there are several kinks that need to be worked out before this is finalized," Gillus said.
Councilmember Cheh said a number of medical experts and organizations, including the Medical Society of D.C. and the District’s Health Department, have reviewed the proposal and fully support it.