Providing Adolescents with Independent and Confidential Access to Childhood Vaccines: A Proposal to Lower the Age of Consent

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The recent rise in rates of nonvaccination and vaccine-preventable diseases and the attendant risks to the public’s health require that lawmakers consider new policy solutions. This Article proposes one such solution. We recommend creation of a limited exception to parental decisionmaking authority by permitting certain older minors to provide legally binding consent for childhood vaccinations and protecting the confidentiality of minors who request vaccination. We analogize this proposed policy to other statutory exceptions that permit certain minors independent access to services relating to contraception, pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, mental health and substance abuse, and sexual assault. In this interdisciplinary paper, we analyze the constitutional, policy, scientific, and practical issues relevant to this proposal, and provide lawmakers with a blueprint with which to enact the proposed legislative reform. We also suggest that, in the absence of legislative action, courts allow mature minors to consent independently to recommended childhood vaccinations.

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