Maryland Bill Would Let Health Care Providers Vaccinate Children Without Parental Consent

Maryland Bill Would Let Health Care Providers Vaccinate Children Without Parental Consent
A child receives a shot of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine in Hartford, Conn., on Jan. 6, 2022. (Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images)
Ryan Morgan

A bill up for consideration in the Maryland legislature would allow health care providers to vaccinate children without their parent or guardian’s consent, so long as they feel the child is able to understand the benefits and potential consequences of getting vaccinated.

The bill, introduced in the Maryland state Senate, says a minor who is at least 14 years old “has the same capacity as an adult to consent to vaccination.” The bill further states minors under the age of 14, including a minor who is developmentally disabled or unemancipated, “has the capacity to consent to vaccination if: in the opinion of the health care provider, the minor is of sufficient intelligence to understand and appreciate the need for, nature of and the significant risks and consequences of the vaccination; and the minor is able to give informed consent.”

While the bill states a minor over the age of 14 has the same decision-making ability as an adult when it comes to choosing to get a vaccine, it also states that if a parent or guardian has decided to vaccinate their minor child, then that child cannot refuse the vaccine. The law specifically states that “the capacity of a minor to consent to vaccination under this section does not include the capacity to refuse vaccination for which a parent or guardian has given consent.

Democratic State Sen. Cheryl Kagan introduced the bill on Wednesday. The bill is set to go before a hearing in the Senate Finance Committee on Feb. 22.

NTD reached out to Kagan for comment about the legislation but did not immediately receive a response.

The bill states that if a health care provider vaccinates a minor without the knowledge or consent of that minor’s parents or guardians, the minor’s vaccination records would not be released to those parents or guardians in any manner without that minor’s consent. The minor shall have access to the medical records without their parent or guardian’s consent.

Other Parental Consent Laws

Kagan is not the first lawmaker to introduce legislation to allow health care providers to vaccinate children without the knowledge or consent of their parents.

Democratic Connecticut state Rep. Kevin Ryan introduced a bill that would allow “children twelve years of age and older to receive a vaccination without the consent of a parent or guardian.”

Forty-one states require individuals to be at least 18 to consent on their own to vaccination, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). Nebraska requires individuals to be at least 19 to consent.

Three states allow minors to consent to vaccination at 16 and one allows minors to consent at 15. Four other states have no specific age cut-off, allowing medical providers to simply waive consent at their discretion.

California and Philadelphia are among the states that allow individuals to consent when they are 18, though San Francisco allows minors that are 12 years old or older to consent and Philadelphia allows minors who are 11 years old or older to consent.

The District of Columbia also passed a law in 2021 that allowed 11-year-olds to consent to vaccination on their own. A federal judge blocked that law, finding that it violated parental religious liberty and ability to monitor their children for adverse effects. The district then refined the law, allowing emancipated or homeless minors to consent to vaccination. A D.C. health care provider can also vaccinate a consenting 11-year-old so long as they’ve “made a reasonable attempt to notify a parent or legal guardian.”