NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, June 29th, 2021

If you’re a minor in the Pacific Northwest, you may be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine, even if your parents say they won’t allow it

Last month, the Kaiser Fam­i­ly Foun­da­tion report­ed that its pub­lic opin­ion research indi­cates that we are reach­ing a sat­u­ra­tion point with respect to COVID-19 vac­cines, with a mere 9% say­ing that they had­n’t yet got­ten a shot in the arm yet. While vac­cine hes­i­tan­cy among adults remains a prob­lem, an even greater con­cern is the sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of par­ents out there who are not inter­est­ed in get­ting their old­er chil­dren vac­ci­nat­ed based on their own skepticism:

As the U.S. awaits autho­riza­tion of a COVID-19 vac­cine for use in chil­dren under age six­teen, three in ten par­ents of chil­dren ages twelve to fif­teen say they will get their child vac­ci­nat­ed as soon as a vac­cine is avail­able, one quar­ter say they will wait a while to see how the vac­cine is work­ing, 18% plan to get their child vac­ci­nat­ed if their school requires it, and near­ly a quar­ter say they will def­i­nite­ly not get their child vac­ci­nat­ed. Per­haps unsur­pris­ing­ly, par­ents’ inten­tions for vac­ci­nat­ing their kids large­ly line up with their own inten­tions for get­ting the COVID-19 vac­cine themselves.

The above was pub­lished May 6th, 2021.

Since then, the Food & Drug Admin­is­tra­tion (FDA) has autho­rized the Pfiz­er-BioN­Tech COVID-19 vac­cine (Com­in­raty) for youth aged twelve to fif­teen years old. In clin­i­cal stud­ies, the vac­cine was found to be 100% effec­tive in pre­vent­ing COVID-19 in that age group, and it is now avail­able to young peo­ple on the same emer­gency basis as it is to adults in the Unit­ed States.

The FDA’s deci­sion is cer­tain­ly good news for young peo­ple who have been eager­ly antic­i­pat­ing get­ting vac­ci­nat­ed and pro­tect­ing them­selves against COVID-19. For those with­out sup­port­ive par­ents, how­ev­er, like this indi­vid­ual in Ari­zona who was inter­viewed by The New York­er, get­ting vac­ci­nat­ed isn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly as sim­ple as sign­ing up for an appoint­ment or going to a drop-in clinic.

As Kaiser’s polling shows, many minors are in this quandary: they want to get the vac­cine, but their par­ents will not sign off and let them do it.

Whether or not you are free to make your own deci­sion about your body and your future depends on which state in the union you hap­pen to live in, owing to the lack of fed­er­al laws pro­tect­ing youth. The good news for teens in the Pacif­ic North­west is that Wash­ing­ton, Ore­gon, and Ida­ho allow many minors to make their own deci­sions about get­ting vac­ci­nat­ed. Read on for details.

Washington

Wash­ing­ton uti­lizes the mature minor rule, which allows health providers to treat teens as adults, “based upon an assess­ment and doc­u­men­ta­tion of the youth’s matu­ri­ty.” The assess­ment in use by Seat­tle-King Coun­ty Pub­lic Health, the state’s largest local juris­dic­tion, is described here.

Also see this guid­ance from UW Med­i­cine and Colum­bia Legal Ser­vices.

In oth­er words, as explained by Vax­Teen: “In Wash­ing­ton, minors of any age do not need their parent’s con­sent to receive all health­care ser­vices, includ­ing vac­ci­na­tions. This is called a ‘mature minor doc­trine’ and essen­tial­ly means that if you talk to your doctor/healthcare provider and they decide you are ‘mature enough’ to make your own health care deci­sions, you can.”

Oregon

Ore­gon law spec­i­fies an age thresh­old for teens mak­ing their own health­care deci­sions. If you are fif­teen years of age or old­er, ORS § 109.640 says you can con­sent to being vac­ci­nat­ed. Here’s the law:

A minor 15 years of age or old­er may give con­sent, with­out the con­sent of a par­ent or guardian of the minor, to

(a) Hos­pi­tal care, med­ical or sur­gi­cal diag­no­sis or treat­ment by a physi­cian licensed by the Ore­gon Med­ical Board or a natur­o­path­ic physi­cian licensed under ORS chap­ter 685

(b) Diag­no­sis or treat­ment by a physi­cian assis­tant who is licensed under ORS 677.505 to 677.525 and who is act­ing pur­suant to a prac­tice agree­ment as defined in ORS 677.495.

© Diag­no­sis and treat­ment by a nurse prac­ti­tion­er who is licensed by the Ore­gon State Board of Nurs­ing under ORS 678.375 and who is act­ing with­in the scope of prac­tice for a nurse practitioner.

Idaho

Ida­ho also makes use of a mature minor rule, but unlike Wash­ing­ton, its rule is cod­i­fied in Ida­ho Code § 39-4503. Here’s the law:

PERSONS WHO MAY CONSENT TO THEIR OWN CARE: Any per­son, includ­ing one who is devel­op­men­tal­ly dis­abled and not a respon­dent as defined in sec­tion 66–402, Ida­ho Code, who com­pre­hends the need for, the nature of and the sig­nif­i­cant risks ordi­nar­i­ly inher­ent in any con­tem­plat­ed hos­pi­tal, med­ical, den­tal, sur­gi­cal or oth­er health care, treat­ment or pro­ce­dure is com­pe­tent to con­sent there­to on his or her own behalf. Any health care provider may pro­vide such health care and ser­vices in reliance upon such a con­sent if the con­sent­ing per­son appears to the health care provider secur­ing the con­sent to pos­sess such req­ui­site com­pre­hen­sion at the time of giv­ing the consent.

Again, what this means is that if you are deemed ‘mature enough’ to make your own health­care deci­sions, you can get vac­ci­nat­ed against COVID-19 in Ida­ho, even if your par­ents aren’t supportive.

The vaccines are your best defense against COVID-19

With pan­dem­ic restric­tions in the Pacif­ic North­west set to be lift­ed this week, oth­er means of pro­tect­ing your­self against COVID-19 — like mask­ing — are not going to be as effec­tive as in the past, because peo­ple around you won’t be rely­ing on them for pro­tec­tion due to hav­ing been vaccinated.

Join­ing the ranks of the vac­ci­nat­ed is thus vital­ly impor­tant for your health.

Hun­dreds of mil­lions of dos­es of the vac­cines have now been admin­is­tered, and the sci­ence so far shows that noth­ing comes close to the vac­cines in terms of offer­ing pro­tec­tion against catch­ing COVID-19. And, of course, as hope­ful­ly every­one read­ing this is well aware, COVID-19 is a killer. More than half a mil­lion peo­ple in the Unit­ed States have lost their lives from this dis­ease already.

And those who sur­vive? They’re often left with long term health impacts.

This includes young peo­ple:

Even mild cas­es of COVID-19 in young peo­ple often lead to lin­ger­ing symp­toms and health com­pli­ca­tions that drag on for six months or longer, accord­ing to a small Nor­we­gian study pub­lished this week in Nature Med­i­cine.

Researchers at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Bergen care­ful­ly fol­lowed 312 peo­ple with con­firmed cas­es of COVID-19 for at least six months. Of those, 247 had mild to mod­er­ate ill­ness­es and iso­lat­ed at home, nev­er becom­ing sick enough to be admit­ted to a hospital.

Six months after test­ing pos­i­tive, 136 of the 247 (55 per­cent) still had lin­ger­ing symp­toms. And those 136 weren’t only in the old­er age groups. In fact, in all the age groups between 16 and over 60 years old, between 50 per­cent and 60 per­cent of COVID patients report­ed per­sis­tent symptoms.

For instance, of those between 16 and 30 years old, 52 per­cent (32 of 61) still suf­fered COVID-19 symp­toms after six months. The most com­mon symp­toms were dis­turbed taste and/or smell, fatigue, dif­fi­cul­ty breath­ing, dif­fi­cul­ty con­cen­trat­ing, and mem­o­ry problems.

The study is small, and the exact per­cent­ages may not hold up in larg­er stud­ies. How­ev­er, it adds to a grow­ing body of data find­ing that long-term symp­toms from COVID-19 are com­mon — even in young peo­ple and/or peo­ple who had mild or even asymp­to­matic disease.

COVID-19 is tru­ly a ter­ri­ble dis­ease. Max­i­mize your chances of nev­er get­ting it by mak­ing a plan to get vac­ci­nat­ed today.

If you’re a minor in the Pacif­ic North­west with anti-vax or vac­cine skep­ti­cal par­ents, know that you are not nec­es­sar­i­ly bound by their views and wish­es. Seek out a health­care pro­fes­sion­al as soon as you can and make the case that you’re mature enough to make your own deci­sion about get­ting vaccinated.

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