Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) said during a recent budget reconciliation markup meeting that he opposes an amendment proposed by Rep. Mary Miller (R-Ill.) that would require parental consent for schools to administer vaccines to children, with the Democratic lawmaker challenging the idea that parents always know what’s best for their kids’ health.
During the virtual meeting of the Select Committee on Education and Labor on Sept. 10, Miller argued in favor of her amendment, saying that “parents need to have the power to make decisions on vaccines because they know what’s best for the health of their families.”
State laws establish vaccination requirements as a condition of admitting children to public day cares and schools—and in some cases also to private ones—with all states providing medical exemptions and some providing exemptions on religious or philosophical grounds. Some states, however, allow minors to decide on their own about getting vaccines, even over parental objections.
“When it comes to any medical treatment, making an informed decision is of the utmost importance. Parents know what’s best for their children, not any government body. We must protect our future generations. That’s why my amendment would restrict local education agencies from administering vaccines to children on school grounds without the consent of a parent or guardian.”
Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), a member of the committee, came out in opposition to Miller’s amendment, saying that all states have laws that provide parents with a process to exempt children from getting vaccines, arguing further that there’s currently no legal framework that would force a vaccination without parental consent.
“This is a nonsense amendment that is in search of a problem that does not exist, and I would urge my colleagues to reject it based on … it’s intended to score political points; it’s not a sincere amendment,” Takano said.
Takano’s remarks appear to overlook the fact that some states give minors the power to consent to health care decisions on their own, even over the objection of parents. Stateline, a publication from The Pew Charitable Trusts, indicated that about 10 states have given teenagers some rights in this regard, including vaccines.
Following Takano’s remarks, Yarmuth also urged his colleagues to oppose the amendment, making the argument that parents don’t always know best.
“I know I’ll get in a lot of trouble for this, but I want to refer to the sponsor’s premise for the amendment, and the first words out of her mouth were, ‘Parents know what’s best for their children.’ I think the evidence is compelling and overwhelming and widespread that they don’t,” Yarmuth said.
“Unfortunately, a lot of parents are misinformed and that’s why we have, literally, tens of thousands of kids now in hospitals, and suffering from this virus,” he said, referring to the CCP virus, which causes COVID-19.
According to a recent report by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), COVID-19 infections in children have “increased exponentially” after declining in early summer, with more than 750,000 cases added between Aug. 5 and Sept. 2. Still, the report found that severe illness among children infected with the CCP virus was uncommon.
Between 0.1 percent and 1.9 percent of all child COVID-19 cases in 24 reporting states resulted in hospitalization, according to the AAP report. At the same time, among 45 states reporting data on child mortality from COVID-19, children accounted for between 0.00 percent and 0.27 percent of all COVID-19 deaths, with 7 states reporting zero child deaths. Between 0.00 percent and 0.03 percent of all child COVID-19 cases resulted in death, the report said.
Yarmuth argued that Miller’s amendment and similar measures should be rejected.
“We need to protect kids from their parents. That is the unfortunate state of the country right now.”
Miller criticized Yarmuth’s remarks later on Twitter: “Children across our nation are being administered the vaccine without parental consent. … Not surprisingly, Democrats are rejecting parental rights in favor of an all-powerful government.”
Miller’s amendment ultimately failed to win committee approval.
It comes as the Biden administration has ramped up efforts to overcome vaccine hesitancy in the face of waning vaccination rates. The White House embarked on a summer campaign that included offers of cash, door-to-door outreach, and recruitment of social media influencers to help spread the word and persuade more Americans to get the shot.
But those efforts have had a limited impact, with President Joe Biden turning to more aggressive measures—requiring federal employees and contractors, as well as health care workers at facilities that get federal funding, to show proof of vaccination, with no testing option.