Teens who don't share their parents' anti-vaccination beliefs are in a predicament as most states require parental consent for COVID-19 vaccination.
On May 10, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) extended authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to include those aged 12 to 15. Most parents were anxiously waiting for this day ever since Pfizer announced results from its trial in adolescents, which showed that the vaccine is at least as effective in this age group as it is in adults. However, anti-vaxxer parents are trying everything in their power to stop their kids from getting the shots. This has put teenagers who do not share their parents' anti-vaccination beliefs in a predicament as most states require parental consent to administer a COVID-19 vaccine shot to underage individuals.
"My mom was misinformed and misled by sources that convinced her that if she was a loving parent, she wouldn't vaccinate."— TED Talks (@TEDTalks) January 15, 2021
Watch Ethan Lindenberger's full TED Talk here: https://t.co/sSq6mPoicj pic.twitter.com/NsubRpQvDL
Speaking to NBC News on this topic, Ethan Lindenberger — who made headlines a couple of years ago for defying his mother to get his childhood immunizations — shared a message for teenagers who find themselves in such a dilemma: get one if you can. "Teens faced with this have to weigh things like 'I know vaccines are lifesaving, but I don't want to become homeless.' So I tell them if you can't have that loving conversation with your parents and you're of age, weigh those consequences seriously," he said.
We at @Newsy know some parents are hesitant to get their children vaccinated against COVID. So I spoke to @EMeadeMD to get some answers about Pfizer's vaccine. That segment aired today on #MorningRush! pic.twitter.com/ahFw5krza4— Katherine Biek (@KatherineBiek) May 17, 2021
"Don't get yourself kicked out or seriously in trouble... but, if you're able to have that conversation, please get your shots as soon as possible," Lindenberger added, revealing that he got his first dose three weeks ago since doing so "could save someone's life." Summer Johnson McGee, Dean of the University of New Haven's School of Health Sciences, wholeheartedly approved the 20-year-old's message. "Ethan's advice is spot on for encouraging teens to undertake education and straight talk with parents about their desire to be vaccinated," she said. "Teenagers who do not share their parents' views on vaccination are in a tough spot, but should advocate for their own decision-making to be vaccinated if they wish."
As U.S. health officials prepare to authorize the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use in younger children, a new poll shows that less than a third of parents would get their child vaccinated as soon as the shots are approved. #COVID19https://t.co/jOlF6MFSQd— Gastroenterology Advisor (@Gastro_Advisor) May 21, 2021
According to Census Bureau data compiled and analyzed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, there are currently 25 million children between the ages of 12 and 17 in the country. Getting them vaccinated is key to raising the level of immunity in the population and completely reopening the country's schools and the economy. However, a poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation's Vaccine Monitor in April month found that nearly a quarter of parents surveyed would not allow their teenagers to be vaccinated. 18 percent of participants said they would do it only if the schools mandated it.
Pediatricians Work To Persuade Hesitant Parents To Have Their Children Vaccinated Against COVID-19https://t.co/INCmDUnKwP— PedsOntario (@PedsOntario) May 18, 2021
It is unclear just how many teenagers are in this predicament. Kelly Danielpour, a high school senior from Los Angeles who founded the vaccine information website VaxTeen, revealed that among the dozen or so queries she gets every day, many are from teenagers whose parents are opposed to them getting vaccinated against COVID-19. "I started this site pre-pandemic," she explained. "But since the pandemic, getting COVID-19 vaccinations has become the most prevalent issue. I am lucky because my parents are pro-vaccine, but there seems to be a lot of teens whose parents are opposed to letting them get vaccinated."
Their parents are vaccine hesitant, but these teens are taking their health in their own hands. https://t.co/ifYEUGtfcA— Teen Vogue (@TeenVogue) April 12, 2021
The first step, Danielpour said, is providing teens with information and resources they can use when talking to their parents. This has proved effective in some cases, she said, revealing that she recently heard from a teen whose parents relented after she made an argument to get vaccinated against COVID-19 with the information provided by VaxTeen. In cases where parents refuse to change their stance, Danielpour tries to get the teenagers information about "minor self-consent."
Faced with anti-vaccination parents, teens are helping one another get Covid shots.— The Great War & Modern Memory (@ps9714) May 24, 2021
The dilemma for some teenagers is "I know vaccines are lifesaving, but I don't want to become homeless" by defying their parents' wishes.https://t.co/2siUnm28ts
13-year-old Arin Parsa, the founder of the Teens for Vaccines advocacy group, has also been hearing from a lot of teenagers whose parents refuse to give them consent for vaccination. The group has been "in the trenches helping many teens who face vaccine-hesitancy as well as extreme anti-vax views in their families. People often don't realize that lack of teen rights for immunizations is not only a public health issue but a severe mental health issue for many," Parsa stated. Meanwhile, Lindenberger acknowledges that there is no easy answer to what these teenagers are going through.
"I've had a few people reach out to me wanting to know how to deal with parental pushback against getting vaccinated," he said. "If your parent is opposed, clearly there are issues that need to be worked out. It's not as simple as getting vaccinated and telling your parents to kick rocks. There is a complex family dynamic here."