Now that the United States has cleared Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5 to 11, children across the country are getting vaccinated. But some people claim that schools can immunize children without their parents’ consent.
In a video from Infowars, a far-right conspiracy-focused website, host Harrison Smith said that by sending their children to school, parents are giving schools “implied consent” to immunize their children. children against COVID-19.
“They might send out a consent form and try to get you to sign for your child,” he said in the video. “But even if you don’t sign it, you should know that sending your child to school on that day is implied consent.”
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Smith cited a World Health Organization document that dealt with implied consent for childhood immunizations. It is a real document that describes three types of informed consent – written, verbal and implied – for children to be vaccinated.
For implied consent, the document states that parents are informed of upcoming immunizations for their children and that their children’s attendance at an immunization session “is considered to imply consent.” He says parents need to take action – such as not allowing their children to go to school on immunization day – if they don’t want their children to be immunized.
But the Infowars video takes this WHO document out of context. For starters, the document dates from 2014, long before the COVID-19 pandemic. Nor is it intended to serve as binding rules for the world, as the Infowars video suggests. Instead, it gives countries and states guidelines to consider when developing their own parental consent requirements. So the WHO does not make the rules. Countries and states are.
In the United States, there is no federal informed consent requirement for vaccination, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But all states and Washington, DC, have rules for parental consent for children to get immunized.
States do not use implied consent for vaccinations, said Stacey Lee, professor of public health at Johns Hopkins University.
“Implied consent is typically used for emergency type situations, well grounded in the American value that we respect life, and that if you are unconscious you would want to live,” Lee said.
For vaccinations, states typically require parents to actively consent before their minor children can be vaccinated. These consent requirements usually take the form of verbal or written permission from the parent, although there are exceptions – for children who have been emancipated or who do not live with a parent or guardian, for example. The age of consent for vaccinations varies by state, although most states set it at 18, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
In Wyoming, “written parental consent is always required,” a spokesperson for the Wyoming Department of Health told PolitiFact in an email. “There is no such thing as ‘implied consent’ here.” Children under the age of 18 in Wyoming need the consent of at least one parent to be vaccinated, with a few exceptions.
In New York City, parental consent for children aged 16 and 17 can be given in person, over the phone, and sometimes in a written statement. For children 5 to 15 years old, an adult caregiver should also be present for vaccination. Implied consent is not an option.
“Parents in New York State are not giving schools their implied consent to vaccinate their children against COVID-19 by sending their children to school,” a spokesperson for the New York Department of Health said. York to PolitiFact in an email.
While most states – including Wyoming and New York – require parental consent for children under the age of 18 to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, a handful of states as well as Washington, DC, have variations on this requirement.
A few states, such as Washington, have adopted what is known as the “mature minor doctrine,” which allows providers to waive parental consent for minors deemed sufficiently mature. Others, like Oregon, have a lower age of consent, 14 to 16, while Nebraska puts it at 19. In Washington, DC, the age of consent for vaccines is 11.
There have been rare occasions when states have failed to meet their own parental consent requirements for vaccines. Louisiana requires parental consent for children under the age of 18 and has a COVID-19 vaccination consent form that parents must sign. But in late October, a parent in Louisiana said his 16-year-old son had been vaccinated without his consent at his school, where there was a mobile vaccination clinic. Clinic operator Ochsner Health System apologized and told the son’s school system that he was investigating the incident.
The Infowars video cites a WHO document on parental consent to claim that American schools are using implied parental consent to administer COVID-19 vaccines to children.
The 2014 WHO document is a guide, not a binding law. Countries, states and cities make the rules. And in the United States, no state uses implied consent to immunize children.
We rate the video’s claim as false.