EDMONTON (CityNews) — Mom and dad might still control their allowance and bedtime, but what role do parents play in a kid’s decision on vaccination?
According to one health law expert, some minors can make up their own mind.
“In Alberta if they’re deemed competent – in other words, if they understand the nature of vaccines – their consent is both necessary and sufficient,” said Timothy Caulfield.
“It’s not a very complex procedure. We’re not talking about open heart surgery here.”
In a statement to CityNews, Alberta Health writes that a parent’s consent is usually required, but that mature minors can do so alone in rare circumstances, such as when a parent or guardian is unavailable.
But Caulfield says provincial laws allow for any competent kid to make the choice themselves if their doctor agrees.
“In Quebec, they do have because it’s a civil code of 15 (years old) I believe, but in all common law jurisdictions, this is the law.”
While Pfizer has been deemed safe for those aged 12 and older, trials remain ongoing for other vaccines. And while the long-term effects of COVID vaccines remain unknown, some health experts say people need to view COVID shots the same way they view vaccines for measles or mumps.
“If people view the COVID vaccine in a similar light to the normal pediatric vaccines, that’s a good starting point,” said Thomas Tenkate at Ryerson School of Occupational and Public Health.
“Anything to do with children, people are much more cautious. I understand that, it’s a human psychology perspective.”
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Of course, the concept of letting a mature minor make independent medical decisions goes beyond the vaccine.
“Wanting to be able to talk to a physician confidentially about mental health issues or things going on at home,” said Caulfield. “There are a whole bunch of reasons why the law is established the way that it is.”
Ultimately, Caulfield suggests leaning into education and conversation for parents and kids who might not see eye to eye on vaccines. And he adds that it’s not just teenagers who should have some say.
“Even when you’re talking about 8-, 9-, 10-year-olds, they should have a role in the decision, as they’re assenting to things.”