Parents in Washington, D.C., have filed a lawsuit against the District over a new law that allows officials to vaccinate children in public schools without parental consent, even if they have a religious objection.
The municipal regulation, known as the “Minor Consent to Vaccinations Act of 2020,” was passed by the council in a vote of 10-3 in November and went into effect on March 19. It enables children ages 11 and older to consent to a vaccine if they are deemed “capable of meeting the informed consent standard” and “… able to comprehend … significant risks ordinarily inherent in the medical care.”
Under the law, students can have vaccines administered to them without their parents’ knowledge because insurance providers are required to “seek reimbursement, without parental consent …”
Insurance companies are also prohibited from sending parents an “Explanation of Benefits” detailing the medical service their child received. Yet children will be given access to their immunization records “without parental consent.”
Children’s Health Defense and the Parental Rights Foundation filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District for the District of Columbia on behalf of four parents who have religious objections to their children getting COVID-19 vaccinations and say the mandate is unconstitutional.
“The D.C. Act is reckless, unconstitutional, and needlessly endangers children’s lives by stripping away parental protection and the protection of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986,” said Mary Holland, president and general counsel of the Children’s Health Defense, in a statement.
“The Minor Consent Act subverts the right and duty of parents to make informed decisions about whether their children should receive vaccinations, by both depriving them of the opportunity to make those decisions and by concealing from parents that their children have been asked to consent to vaccinations or may have indeed been vaccinated,” the lawsuit claims.
Officials named in the lawsuit against the District include: Mayor Muriel Bowser; Laquandra Nesbitt, the director of the Department of Health; and Lewis Ferebee, chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools.
Though District of Columbia Public Schools is not requiring students to receive the COVID-19 vaccine before classes start in the fall, DCPS would be able to administer the vaccine to eligible children under the Minor Consent Act.
The lawsuit also states that the Minor Consent Act creates two health records for students, such as for those whose parents have a religious exemption for the HPV vaccine. The immunization record available to parents is blank, while the child’s actual medical history, including vaccinations, is kept private from parents but is accessible to their children.
“On its face, the Minor Consent Act circumvents parents’ decisions to claim a religious exemption pursuant to D.C.,” the lawsuit states.
Ferebee, chancellor of the DCPS, sent an email to DCPS parents on May 14 saying it was their “responsibility” to get vaccinated if they want to see their children back in school.
“While the COVID-19 vaccine is currently not required for students to attend school next year, we encourage all students age 12 and older and their parents and caregivers to get vaccinated,” the email from the chancellor read.
“If you want to see students back in school, then it is our responsibility as a community for everyone to receive the COVID-19 vaccine when it’s available to them. We are collaborating with local health officials to host vaccination clinics at our schools,” the email continued.
In another email sent on June 1, Ferefee wrote: “The science is clear: Vaccines are the single most effective tool we have to stop the spread of the coronavirus. To help meet our commitment to fully reopen schools for every student, every day in the fall, it is our responsibility as a community to get vaccinated, including our middle school and high school students.”
Mary Cheh, a council member and sponsor of the Minor Consent Act, said before the District’s Committee on Health that “anti-science beliefs” of parents are putting their unvaccinated children at risk.
“Unfortunately, we see a rising number of individuals or families across the globe, really, who are choosing not to vaccinate their children based on the widely disproven belief that vaccines may cause autism or other harmful health effects,” Cheh said.
“These anti-science beliefs not only put the unvaccinated children at risk, but have led to the spread of diseases that have been all but eradicated in the past,” she continued.
DCPS opened walk-in vaccination clinics in four schools to offer the vaccine to anyone 12 years old and older.
Bowser announced all schools in the District would be fully reopened for in-person learning, five days a week, for every student starting on Aug. 30.