Minors will need to show their parents' approval before they get the COVID-19 vaccine shot, two Tennessee Republican lawmakers said on Wednesday after meeting with the state's health agency.
The decision is a sharp contrast to the decades-old provision regarding children's vaccination rights that led to the state's top vaccine official being fired. Officials announced the decision during a meeting of a legislative panel. It included former vaccine chief Michelle Fiscus who was terminated in what she said was a move to satisfy some GOP lawmakers who were against giving coronavirus vaccines to minors.
Parental Consent in Minor Vaccination
In a statement, Sen. Kerry Roberts and Rep. John Ragan, GOP chairs of the Joint Government Operations Committee discussed the issue with Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey along with a member of Bill Lee's office. When asked, a spokesperson for the Department of Health did not immediately reply or comment about the meeting and the decision to require parental consent for vaccination.
Lawmakers said that both administration officials confirmed that it was not the Department of Health, Department of Education, or the 89 county health departments' policy to vaccinate children without the parents' consent. However, there are six other states that run independently, including Nashville and Memphis' Shelby County, MSN reported.
The legislation advanced through a Senate committee on Wednesday and would also expand the types of medications immunizing pharmacists can administer. Officials said the parental consent for the vaccine was designed to alleviate concerns among families and legislators that young Americans would get another injection while it is still authorized for emergency use, Sen. Jim Burgin, a Harnett County Republican, said.
Only the Pfizer vaccine is currently available for children aged 12 to 17 years, and North Carolina officials also allow minors to make this decision on their own. Authorities said children in the age group can do so "if they show the decisional capacity to do so," the state Department of Health Human Services said.
The legislation would also require immunizing pharmacists to administer more medications to residents who do not have a doctor's prescription. The list includes some nicotine smoking cessation programs, certain oral contraceptives or those that are applied on the skin, and prenatal vitamins. Health authorities would be required to keep a record of the distribution and have them readily available for patients and their doctors, the Associated Press reported.
Threat to Residents
While the South Carolina proposal to require parental consent for vaccinating minors still needs to go through a lengthy legislative process, it has already gotten past the first few steps. It would next head into a Senate vote before going through the House and then be signed by the governor.
Fiscus expressed her concerns for residents of her state, arguing some elected lawmakers are political and self-centered to allow the threat of the COVID-19 to terrorize Tennessee residents. She argued that all she did was share the memo that laid out the decades-old policy that wrote health care providers can decide whether or not a minors have the capacity to consent vaccination themselves, which led to her removal from the position, The Mercury News reported.