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Required parental consent for COVID-19 vaccine clears two Senate committee steps
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Required parental consent for COVID-19 vaccine clears two Senate committee steps

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Jul.22 -- U.S. uptake of Coronavirus vaccines has stalled as unvaccinated Americans cite a number of myths to explain their hesitancy. Meanwhile, the spread of the delta variant continues to increase cases and hospitalizations across the country. Bloomberg’s Annmarie Hordern reports.

N.C. Sen. Joyce Krawiec has fulfilled her pledge to introduce legislation that would require parental consent for 12- to 17-year-olds to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Krawiec, R-Forsyth, and a primary sponsor of Republican health care legislation, had that language inserted into House Bill 96 on Wednesday during the Senate Health Care committee meeting.

The Health Care committee cleared the amended bill Wednesday, and the Senate Commerce and Insurance followed suit Thursday. It now goes to Senate Rules and Operations.

In North Carolina, 12- to 17-year-olds are allowed to decide for themselves on whether to get the Pfizer vaccine — the only one approved for that age group — under a state law that applies to medical services that prevent or treat communicable diseases.

The language inserted into HB96 says that “notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, a health care provider shall obtain written consent from a parent or legal guardian prior to administering any vaccine that has been granted emergency use authorization and is not yet fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration to an individual under 18 years of age.”

Young people who have been emancipated from their parents would be exempt from the provision.

Krawiec said in late June she was responding to constituents’ concern, particularly parents not wanting their children to get the vaccine.

“Parents should not have to worry that this might happen without their consent,” Krawiec said.

“The vaccines … are only approved for emergency use authorization. Parents should make these decisions with their children and should not be excluded.”

Public health experts point out that all vaccines are required to undergo the same rigorous testing, whether they are approved for emergency use or through a typical license.

The bill was originally focused on allowing pharmacists to administer injectable drugs and cleared the House by a 111-0 vote on May 11. That language remains in HB96.

If HB96 clears the Senate, the House must approve the parental consent provision before the bill could be sent to Gov. Roy Cooper.

Cooper briefly discussed the revamped HB96 following a tour Thursday of the vaccination site for the Forsyth Department of Public Health.

Cooper said the inserted language “concerns me.”

“I will talk with our public-health officials and the legislature about that before we make any decisions.”

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Krawiec said in late June that she believes in the importance of the COVID-19 vaccine, has taken it and encourages family members and other adults to do the same.

There is no state public health or educational requirement for young people to get the COVID-19 vaccine prior to the start of the 2021-22 school year.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory committee on Immunization Practices recommended May 11 the use of the Pfizer vaccine for ages 12 to 15 under the same Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorization approved April 7 for those ages 16 and older.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services was required to sign off on the federal recommendations — which it did on May 12 — before vaccine providers in North Carolina could proceed.

At that time, the state reported nearly 123,000 residents 17 and younger had tested positive for COVID-19.

“Having a vaccine for our younger teens brings us that much closer to being able to end the pandemic,” Dr. Mandy Cohen, the state’s health secretary, said May 12.

About 25% of North Carolinians ages 12 to 17 are considered fully vaccinated as of Wednesday.

DHHS says the expectation is that, in most cases, parental consent is obtained for a COVID-19 vaccination for people under 18.

“However, teenagers can consent for themselves for COVID-19 vaccines, pursuant to N.C. General Statute 90-21.5, if they have the ability to understand and make decisions about their health. As part of normal development, most children are able to understand and make decisions about their health some point before the age of 18.”

State law does require K-12 students receive a series of immunizations, including boosters necessary before entering certain grade levels. That law does not include COVID-19 vaccinations.

Children who are home-schooled or attend public, private, charter or religious schools are required to be up-to-date with North Carolina-required vaccinations within 30 calendar days from the first day of school.

State law allows for medical and religious exemptions from school-required immunizations.

‘Seems unreasonable’

Krawiec said in June that part of her stance on parental consent is a matter of wanting consistency in how medical care is provided to students.

“Parental consent is required for children to receive a medication at school, even ibuprofen,” Krawiec said.

“It seems unreasonable to think that children can make major health decisions regarding vaccines, but can’t regarding taking a headache pill or attending an outside activity without parental approval.”

Another factor Krawiec cited is Gov. Roy Cooper’s decision to conduct a so-called vaccination lottery from June 23 through Aug. 3.

The lottery will provide $125,000 in academic scholarships to four vaccinated residents between 12 and 17 years old. Those who have gotten vaccinated since the June 10 announcement of the lottery are entered twice.

Krawiec expressed concern that the scholarship element of the lottery could lead more young people to get vaccinated without their parents’ consent or knowledge.

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@rcraverWSJ

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