February 9, 2010
Two bills in the New York State legislature would, if passed, allow healthcare practitioners to vaccinate children under 18 against HPV without their parent’s consent. The bills would require the vaccinations before children could attend school, leading to the interesting potential scenario of schools vaccinating kids without their parents’ consent simply because the child wants to stay in school.
Even without the inevitable controversy over whether under-18s should be able to get preventive care from their doctors without their parents hearing the details of their sex lives, the bills read like full-employment acts for Merck (MRK)’s Gardasil and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)’s Cervarix.
“AN ACT to amend the public health law, in relation to providing medical care to minors for sexually transmitted diseases without a parent’s or guardian’s consent.”
It proposes (caps in the original):
A HEALTH CARE PRACTITIONER MAY PROVIDE HEALTH CARE RELATED TO THE PREVENTION OF A SEXUALLY TRANSMISSIBLE DISEASE, INCLUDING ADMINISTERING VACCINES, TO A PERSON UNDER THE AGE OF EIGHTEEN YEARS WITHOUT THE CONSENT OR KNOWLEDGE OF THE PARENTS OR GUARDIANS OF SUCH PERSON, PROVIDED THAT THE PERSON HAS CAPACITY TO CONSENT TO THE CARE, WITHOUT REGARD TO THE PERSON’S AGE, AND THE PERSON CONSENTS.
Senate bill No. A778 states:
Every person in parental relation to a child in this state shall have administered to such child an adequate dose or doses of an immunizing agent against poliomyelitis, mumps, measles, diphtheria, rubella, varicella, HUMAN PAPILLOMAVIRUS (HPV), Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), pertussis, tetanus, pneumococcal disease, and hepatitis B, which meets the standards approved by the United States public health service for such biological products, and which is approved by the department under such conditions as may be specified by the public health council.
The language of A778 then goes on to exclude from school any child that has not been properly vaccinated.
… a pre-emptive foreclosing of a parent’s fundamental privacy and liberty right — that of deciding whether to give an entirely elective vaccine — a vaccine that is meaningless to virgins and abstinent teens — and a vaccine with some real measurable (even if small) risks, to a minor child — [should] be unconstitutional, …
I disagree. No one likes the idea of their kids having sex. But the notion that kids will refrain from sex because they won’t want doctors to tell their parents if they get HPV is ridiculous. Requiring parental consent for a child who wants to protect him or herself from an STD is a good way to render such protection ineffective. Kids have privacy rights too. They should be able to talk with their doctors without their parents if they want to.
And finally: Did you notice that the laws call for “children” to be vaccinated — not just girls? Until recently, Gardasil has been targeted at girls only (even though it works in both sexes).