The D.C. Council passed a law specific to Washington, D.C., in late December 2020 that allows children as young as 11 to receive vaccines if they are deemed capable by a doctor of giving informed consent.
No nationwide U.S. law allows children as young as 11 to get vaccinated without the consent of their parents, although some states allow minors to get some vaccines if their parents are opposed.
In late December 2020, readers asked Snopes for verification of online rumors stating that a law went into effect recently allowing children to get vaccinated without the consent of their parents.
Some of the posts shared screenshots from a website, Conservative Brief, which misleadingly included a picture of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. Fauci has been at the forefront of the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The meme led some readers to believe that a new nationwide law allows children 11 and older to get vaccinated without their parents’ knowledge or consent. One reader inquired, “Did The US just pass legislation that children can get the Covid vaccine without parental consent?”
The answer is no.
One such law did pass at the local level, in Washington, D.C., but had nothing to do with Fauci. According to the website for the D.C. Council, the law went into effect on Dec. 23, 2020.
It allows children as young as 11 in Washington, D.C., to get vaccines against a range of illnesses like polio, measles, mumps and rubella, as well as the COVID-19 coronavirus and human papillomavirus, if a doctor determines they are capable of giving informed consent. The vaccination record would be sent to the child’s school, not to their parents, if the parents are using a religious exemption that allows their child to attend school without vaccines against communicable diseases.
The bill was originally introduced to the D.C. Council in early 2019 in response to an outbreak of measles. The intent was to circumvent parents who subscribe to anti-vaccine conspiracy theories and refuse to vaccinate their children, enabling such outbreaks.
Some of these children, like Ethan Lindenberger, have gotten themselves vaccinated against their parents’ wishes and become public health advocates, and some states let teens get vaccines without parental consent.
In the face of the anti-vaccine conspiracy movement, some advocate for expanding the practice of letting children of a certain age decide for themselves whether to get vaccinated without their parents’ knowledge. However, no nationwide law exists that allows children as young as 11 to receive a vaccine without parental consent.