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Can children in Washington get a vaccination without parental consent?

Nurse Maureen Stevens places a bandage on the arm of Caleb Matthew Laing after administering a first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at Harborview Medical Center on May 13, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

How much leeway do children have to get the COVID-19 vaccinate without parental consent? According to former state Attorney General Rob McKenna, the answer to that question varies depending on which Washington you’re in.

There’s a law in Washington, D.C. — passed before the COVID pandemic — that allows kids to get a vaccination without parental consent, as long as they’re able to form an informed opinion.

Former state AG: ‘Awful lot of precedent’ in the US for requiring vaccination

“It was actually adopted to make it easier for kids to be vaccinated against HPV,” explained Rob McKenna, former state attorney general. “So it’s interesting now that it’s being challenged by a group called Children’s Health Defense, led by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who is a noted anti-vaxxer.”

“They decided to challenge this law now because of the fact that kids can now go get vaccinated against COVID. The standard is if a doctor determines that the child or young person is capable of informed consent, they don’t have to have their parents’ permission to be vaccinated, at least down to the age of, I think, 11 or 12,” McKenna said.

Some parents see this as an affront, McKenna explained, as they believe they have a fundamental right to “direct the care and upbringing of their children.”

There’s a different health care related rule in effect for kids in Washington state, though.

“In Washington state, children can go in and, in fact, the parent gets kicked out of the examining room with the doctor when the child turns, I think it’s 13,” McKenna said. “And that’s a public policy decision that our state has made and other states have made for certain kinds of health care decisions. And it’s because there is in fact no recognized ‘fundamental right’ to direct the upbringing of your children and medical care beyond a certain age.”

The Washington state rule, however, does not mean that a child can walk into a drug store and get vaccinated against COVID-19 today without parental consent.

“When I looked this up, I saw that if you don’t have a parent with you and you’re under 18, you have to have a signed consent form,” McKenna said. “So it does appear that people under age 18 have to have written consent if the parent is not with them.”

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