By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

The American Medical Association (AMA), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and other national healthcare organizations have filed amicus briefs in two federal court cases that center around a law regarding adolescents and informed consent.

In March, the Minor Consent for Vaccinations Amendment Act of 2020 took effect in Washington, DC, which allows a minor age 11 years or older to receive a vaccine if the individual can meet informed consent standards. Since then, some parents have filed lawsuits to overturn the act.  

On Aug. 12, national healthcare organizations filed amicus briefs in these cases, requesting judges throw out the complaints and uphold the act.

“Physicians are well able to assess whether a minor is sufficiently mature to understand and give consent for medically appropriate vaccinations,” AMA President Gerald Harmon, MD, said in a statement. “The medical community, federal [law], and state law have long recognized that minors can be capable of informed consent for other health care services without parental consent. To maximize immunization opportunities for children, legislative policies should be encouraged and preserved that allow mature minors to give informed consent for vaccinations recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.”

In the upcoming September issue of Medical Ethics Advisor (MEA), experts note the notion of parental rights vs. child rights is nothing new, but the emergence this year of the COVID-19 vaccine has brought fresh attention to the topic.

Gregory D. Zimet, PhD, HSPP, a clinical psychologist and professor at Indiana University’s department of pediatrics, told MEA it is ethical for adolescents to decide to vaccinate themselves against a clear health threat, such as COVID-19 or HPV. “Healthcare providers are certainly faced with a dilemma when an adolescent directly asks for the vaccine when parents do not consent,” Zimet says in the upcoming September issue. “However, I think this dilemma is a legal and logistical one, not an ethical one.”

In fact, Zimet argues it is ethically questionable if a parent denies COVID-19 vaccination when the adolescent wants the shot. “An argument could be made that the parent’s behavior in this circumstance is unethical, comparable to medical neglect,” Zimet says.

Roughly 8 million U.S. adolescents age 12 to 17 years have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. In another article appearing in September MEA, author Stacey Kusterbeck reports on adolescents who have expressed interest in receiving this vaccine and what it might take for those on the fence to jump on board.

For more Relias Media coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic, please click here.