The first bill out of California’s newly formed vaccine caucus would allow children 12 and older to receive vaccinations without their parents’ consent.
“With Covid, there are a huge number of teenagers not vaccinated — about a million — and a lot of them want to be vaccinated,” said Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), who on Thursday introduced SB 866. Wiener is among the seven lawmakers included in the Vaccine Work Group, which was formed to introduce legislation to help prevent the spread of Covid-19 and address vaccine misinformation.
Wiener argued that teens who aren’t vaccinated may be prevented from working or participating in sports and other activities. “When these kids can’t get vaccinated, we’re preventing them form having the best possible teenage years,” he said.
Beyond Covid: SB 866 would give children 12 and older the ability to consent to any vaccination approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that meets the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s immunization advisory committee.
Wiener said his bill builds on existing law, which already gives Californians 12 and up decision-making autonomy over the human papillomavirus (HPV) and hepatitis B vaccines. State law also allows children of that age to consent to accessing abortions, birth control and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, drug and alcohol-related disorders and injuries resulting from sexual assaults and intimate violence.
Several states already allow minors to access vaccines without parental consent, according to Wiener’s office. Rhode Island and South Carolina permit those 16 and older to consent to vaccines, as does Oregon, starting at 15; Alabama at 14, and Washington, D.C. at 11.
Wiener said he’s bracing for pushback against his bill. “We know we have the fringe anti-vaxxers who oppose any bill that expands access to vaccines,” he said.
What’s next: SB 866 is expected to have its first committee hearing by March or April.
Additional legislation is expected from other members of the vaccine caucus. This could include consumer mandates and requirements for workplace safety, as well as measures to eliminate the personal belief exemption at schools for Covid vaccinations.