Minors Can Consent to Vaccines, Delegates Back State Laws

Marcia Frellick

June 13, 2019

CHICAGO — The American Medical Association (AMA) House of Delegates voted to support state policies that allow minors to override their parents' refusal to get them vaccinated and will encourage state legislatures to set up comprehensive policies to that effect.

"Many children go unvaccinated as antivaccine-related messages and advertisements target parents with misinformation," said AMA Board Member Bobby Mukkamala, MD. "Allowing mature minors to provide informed consent to vaccinations will ensure that these patients can access this type of preventive care," he said here at the AMA 2019 Annual Meeting.

The inability of minors in some states to consent to vaccinations has been cited as a roadblock to improving vaccination rates.

Delegates also adopted resolution 416, which supports encouraging states to eliminate nonmedical exemptions from mandated pediatric immunizations.

"Limiting exemptions for vaccinations — ideally only to medical exemptions — is an evidence-based best practice that definitely increases your vaccination rates and lowers your chances of a vaccine-preventable outbreak," said Jerome Adams, MD, Surgeon General of the United States, in the reference committee on Sunday. "I think we can do this across the country."

The adoption of the resolutions by the House of Delegates comes as the number of measles cases tops 1000 for the first time since 1992, according to the latest figures from the US Department of Health and Human Services.

"We are an evidence-based house of medicine and there is very good evidence behind vaccinations. Herd immunity is not working. This is the right thing to do. We need to do it now," Samantha Rosman, MD, from the American Academy of Pediatrics, said during her testimony.

There are multiple ways to put incentives in place, said Richard Pan, MD, a pediatrician and California state senator who authored a law to ban medical exemptions in California.

Although the issue is usually debated at the state level, he acknowledged, "the federal government could look at, for example, requiring vaccinations for federal programs like Head Start."

"We need to figure out how to organize proscience parents to work in partnership with us," he added. "That's what we did in California. That's how we'll do it in any other state."

Vaccines for Asylum Seekers

Delegates also adopted a resolution stating that asylum seekers, who are not required to get vaccinations before resettlement in the United States, should have access to medically appropriate care, including vaccinations, regardless of country of origin.

Rosman, who authored the resolution, testified that although "children in the community are eligible for covered vaccines through the Vaccines for Children program, many children arriving in this country as asylum seekers are not eligible for that same fund."

In his support for the resolution, Pan explained that often asylum seekers "are coming from countries with higher vaccination rates than our own. They're not the ones bringing the disease over the border," he said.

"While many children are receiving timely vaccinations in their own country of origin, flu vaccine is much less common," Rosman pointed out. "For kids who have not been vaccinated or are undervaccinated, we believe these immunizations should be universally available."

Mukkamala, Adams, Rosman, and Pan have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

American Medical Association (AMA) 2019 Annual Meeting. Presented June 9 and 12, 2019.

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