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Pennsylvania legislation would allow teens to get vaccinated without parental consent

  • By Julia Zenkevich/WESA
Finley Martin, 14, gets a shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at the First Baptist Church of Pasadena Friday, May 14, 2021, in Pasadena, Calif.

 Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP Photo

Finley Martin, 14, gets a shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at the First Baptist Church of Pasadena Friday, May 14, 2021, in Pasadena, Calif.

(Pittsburgh) — State lawmakers are pushing new legislation in hopes of giving more teens access to COVID-19 vaccines.

Currently in Pennsylvania, kids under the age of 18 need a parent or legal guardian’s permission to receive most kinds of medical treatment, including vaccines.

State Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Squirrel Hill) proposed a bill last week that would allow kids ages 14 and older to get any federally approved vaccine, including the COVID-19 vaccine, without parental consent.

“What we’re doing here is not really anything that’s novel,” Frankel said, noting that in Pennsylvania, kids can seek some treatments, like mental health care, without a parent’s consent starting at age 14.

“We want to make sure that teenagers have the ability to get the healthcare that they need and are entitled to,” said Frankel.

The Pittsburgh Democrat said the legislation is one way to provide teens with the health care they’re entitled to.

“Because after all, when you think about it, it’s the teenager who’s going to be living with their body for the next 50, 60, 70 years, not the parent,” he said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration fully authorized Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for people 16 and older last week and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved the Pfizer vaccine for emergency use in children as young as twelve in May.

Frankel also plans to introduce a second bill that would require parents to speak with a medical professional before opting their child out of mandatory school vaccinations.

In most districts in the state, parents who have religious or philosophical objections to the CDC’s recommended vaccination schedule sign a document to excuse their child from the requirement.

“There’s no real information that is included in that,” Frankel said. Consulting a medical professional would help them understand “the risks and the potential consequences of that decision to opt out.”

“They need to know that there are consequences, potentially, for their family in terms of infection, for the school, and for the greater community,” he said.

According to Frankel, more than 12,000 Pennsylvania families currently opt out of vaccinations required for school.

Frankel said both bills were spurred by an increased number of diseases that were previously thought to have been eliminated through vaccination, like measles. He hopes the legislation could address some of the apprehensions around vaccines.

“We need to reverse this hesitancy and this skepticism that’s fueled by something other than medical science and fact,” Frankel said.

Democratic state Sen. Amanda Cappelletti will introduce a similar teen consent bill in the coming weeks.

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