RIVERSIDE (CNS) – Riverside County lawmakers from both sides of the aisle say they have reservations about a proposed state law due for hearings next month that would pave the way for children as young as 12 to receive COVID- 19 shots without first obtaining their parents’ permission.
“I respect parents’ authority over the welfare of their children and take the issue of informed consent seriously,” Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside, told City News Service. “I will be closely monitoring this bill. I … will not be in a position to cast a vote on it until it is on the Senate floor. In that time, the bill may change substantially.”
The proposed legislation, Senate Bill 866, the “Teens Choose Vaccines Act,” was introduced in January by senators Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, and Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco. The measure would authorize waiver of parental consent to achieve what Wiener characterized as “the autonomy of young people to receive lifesaving vaccines, regardless of their parents’ beliefs and work schedules.”
The bill was passed out of the Senate Rules Committee in January and received an initial hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month. The committee is slated to hear it again in April.
Assemblyman Randy Voepel, R-Idyllwild, told CNS that while he is not “anti-vaccine,” he believes there should be an “informed choice whether or not a person receives the vaccine, and certainly it shouldn’t be opened up to minors who are not considered old enough to drive or vote in many cases.”
“Who takes on the liability if that minor should have an adverse reaction?” he said. “The parents were not aware that their child received the vaccine, so are they then responsible? There are a multitude of issues with this and other vaccine mandates that would open up a proverbial can of worms, especially should it eventually have to be decided in the courts.”
Sen. Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh, R-Beaumont, told CNS in February that the Legislature should retreat from any effort “to dismantle the family unit.”
“I believe it should be our prerogative to do all that we can to support the health and autonomy of our families,” she said.
The remainder of the county’s state representatives either declined comment or did not respond to requests.
“It’s unconscionable for teens to be blocked from the vaccine because a parent either refuses or cannot take their child to a vaccination site,” Wiener said in January.
Pan, a licensed pediatrician, said that the “most effective way to keep schools open and safe is to ensure the COVID vaccination rate of students and school staff is as high as possible.”
Lawsuits challenging a similar law in Washington, D.C., the Minor Consent for Vaccinations Amendment Act, led to a federal judge two weeks ago issuing a temporary injunction halting further use of the measure, which permitted kids as young as 11 to receive COVID and other vaccinations without parental consent.
The judge declared that the act threatened parental rights as far as them knowing what their children were injecting themselves with, while reimbursement for providers’ costs could be billed directly to a family’s medical insurers without the parents’ knowledge.
Even California’s GOP congressional delegation has weighed in on SB 866, with reps. Darrell Issa, R-Temecula, and Ken Calvert, R-Corona, joining colleagues in a letter sent last month to leaders in the Assembly and Senate, calling on them to abandon the legislation, saying it “suffocates the ability of parents to make appropriate health decisions” for their children.
“It presents dangerous threats to an individual child’s health, depending on their personal health circumstances,” the letter stated. “A student may not have detailed knowledge of their complete health history, including allergies to medication, previous illnesses and other essential medical details that would substantially impact a decision to seek vaccination.”
Pan and Wiener have cited U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention coronavirus statistics in mustering support for SB 866. But even those numbers have changed. On March 18, the CDC reduced its confirmed pediatric COVID fatalities by 24%, dropping from nearly 1,800 to about 1,350. The agency said there had been miscounts in 26 states.
CDC COVID Tracker data show 976,229 deaths nationwide linked to the virus since January 2020. In Riverside County, there have been 6,438 deaths attributed to virus complications. However, only five of those have involved patients under 18 years old, according to the county Department of Public Health.
The Legislature’s “Vaccine Work Group,” of which Pan and Wiener are founding members, is responsible for SB 866 and at least seven other bills seeking mandates or changes to state privacy shields.
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