Bioethics and Policy Researchers with UPenn and Yale University say children should be allowed to be vaccinated against COVID-19 without their parents’ permission.

With the recent FDA emergency use authorization of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 12-18, state laws should authorize minors to consent to COVID-19 vaccination without parental permission, according to Larissa Morgan, JD, MBE, a recent graduate from the Carey School of Law at the University of Pennsylvania, Penn alumnus Jason Schwartz, PhD, an assistant professor in the Yale School of Public Health, and Dominic Sisti, PhD, director of the Scattergood Program for Applied Ethics in Behavioral Health Care and an assistant professor of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the Perelman School of Medicine.

Morgan, Schwartz, and Sisti recommend a policy framework for allowing minors to receive COVID-19 vaccination without parental consent that employs a sliding scale of decision-making authority, granting greater authority to minors as they age, while also considering the risks and benefits of vaccination. Given the very low risk and very high benefit of COVID immunization, younger children may also consent to a vaccine without parental permission in a number of circumstances. For instance, younger children with health conditions, or minors with guidance from their clinicians, would both be authorized to consent to the vaccine without parental approval.

“Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were situations in which well-informed adolescents want the benefits of a vaccine despite their parents’ wishes. COVID-19 vaccines are high benefit and low risk – a dichotomy that is easily comprehended by adolescents who want to consent to the vaccine without their parent or guardian’s permission. Every vaccinated individual counts in the fight against COVID-19. The ongoing pandemic and its profound consequences for health and societal functioning affirm the urgent need for states to recognize minors’ capacity to consent to vaccination to safeguard individual and public health.”