Should kids sneak out to get vaccinated? - (2/19/2019)

By Dr. Ron Gasbarro

Ms. Jones came into the pharmacy to buy some greeting cards. “Do you need to catch up on any of your vaccines?” the pharmacist asked her. “I am against vaccines. They cause many problems. I have never had my kids vaccinated. But let me ask you something! My teenage daughter got four vaccines without telling me. Shouldn’t she have gotten my permission before she did that to her body? What did people do before all this vaccination stuff happened?”

What did people do before vaccinations? They died, Ms. Jones. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the health and life expectancy of persons residing in the US improved dramatically during the 20th century. Since 1900, the average lifespan of Americans has lengthened by more than 30 years; 25 years of which are attributable to advances in vaccination technology. Vaccines have resulted in the eradication of smallpox; elimination of polio in the Americas; and control of measles, rubella, tetanus, diphtheria, Haemophilus influenzae type b, and other infectious diseases in the US and other parts of the world – diseases that have literally killed billions over the last millennium. 

Should Ms. Jones’ daughter have asked her mom for permission to be vaccinated despite her mother’s fears, albeit irrational? Used to be teens would go behind their parents’ backs to smoke cigarettes or drink beer. But to make a covert trip to a clinic to protect oneself against a future disease? Yes. Many young people are being denied the opportunity of being immunized because of their parents’ misinformed animosity toward vaccinations that have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. Generally, a person must be 18 to make decisions about having any type of medical procedure or treatment. However, under the Mature Minor Doctrine, if the minor is 16, understands the procedure in question, and the procedure is not serious, then no parenteral consent is required. Today, 15 states – including Florida, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Illinois – allow underage youth to make decisions about their health, within reason. A vaccination is just a shot, not a gender reassignment.   

In fact, since the 1970s, older pediatric patients have sought to make autonomous decisions regarding their own treatment and sometimes sued successfully to do so. The decades of accumulated evidence tend to demonstrate that children are capable of participating in medical decision-making in a meaningful way; and legal and medical communities have demonstrated an increasing willingness of formally affirming decisions made by young people, even regarding life and death. 

Why do people hold on to this idea that vaccines will somehow harm their kids? They fear thimerosal, a preservative once used to give vaccines a longer shelf life. Manufacturers have removed thimerosal from most childhood vaccines even though the link between the preservative and autism has been debunked. Vaccines do contain aluminum salts, which are used to stimulate antibody production, making the vaccine more effective. The dangers? None, as aluminum is everywhere – in the air, the ground, and in our own bodies. The real danger lies in not getting vaccines for diseases that can lead to complications and even death. 

As Ms. Jones departed, the pharmacist thought to himself, “This woman’s daughter sounds exceptionally intelligent and mature for her age. She should be proud of her.”

Ron Gasbarro, PharmD, is a registered pharmacist, medical writer, and principal at Read more at 


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