In Canada Schools Can Vaccinate Children Without Parental Consent
12-15 year olds to be injected with an 'emergency use authorization' vaccine that the manufacturer doesn't want liability for, against a virus that does not threaten them
Dozens of children flocked to the playground of Gordon A. Brown Middle School on Wednesday afternoon, to eagerly await their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
Most were accompanied by parents, or older siblings, as the East York school announced Wednesday morning it would launch a pop-up clinic that afternoon.
Many parents had already been vaccinated — they were there to provide support. What they weren’t there for was to give permission. In Toronto, those 12-15 don’t need a parent or guardian to allow them to take the vaccine.
However, that’s not the same policy in other public health units.
Health Canada approved the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for those aged 12 to 15 on May 5, making Canada the first country to do so, with the hopes that school restrictions could be eased in the fall. Ontario had previously announced that shots would be open to 12 and older as of May 31. But on Friday they moved up that date to May 23.
Some public health units including Peel, York and Toronto have already started to offer shots to the age group.
🚨No Parental Consent🚨necessary for them to give your child the COVID shot in Nova Scotia, Canada
*Children aren't capable of understanding the implications of this pic.twitter.com/PDqbNyu7sh
— 🍁🇨🇦CanAditude🇨🇦🍁 (@CanAditude) May 19, 2021
But the regions have varied on whether those 12-15 need a parent or guardian to provide consent. And that means informing parents and children about the importance of the vaccine is critical, public health experts say.
Regardless of a public health unit’s rules, this age group is very capable of making a decision about their health, including the vaccine, said Dr. Saba Merchant, a pediatrician based in Vaughan.
“If the child does not have an intellectual disability, then they definitely have the capacity and the ability to make that decision,” she said.
So far, Merchant has mostly heard from eager parents wanting to get their child vaccinated, with some questions about safety. But it’s important that the young person has the opportunity to ask questions, and provide their own informed consent, whether the parents are supportive or not, she said.
The provincial Health Care Consent Act states there is no minimum age to provide consent for vaccination and a child does not need external permission to receive one.
Though tweens and teens are legally able to make health decisions and technically do not require parent or guardian permission to get the COVID-19 vaccine, the household will likely play a role in decision making, said Merchant.
And it’s essential that children and their families have continued access to the most up-to-date information, and easily accessible vaccines, so there can be full confidence around getting the shot, she said.
Public health experts like Merchant and community organizers say that while this age group has the ability to access the vaccine without permission, it’s also important to ensure the shots are brought to familiar places like schools and community hubs.
In York, those 13 and under require a parent or guardian to attend to give verbal consent, or they need to sign a consent form.
Peel Region had initially asked a parent or guardian to provide “informed consent,” when announcing appointments would be open Thursday to anyone 12 and older, in a press release Wednesday morning.
Later that day, the region changed its tune, saying approval was no longer needed. Peel told the Star this was to remove barriers.
Source: Toronto Star