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Informed consent

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Jody Vance: In the drive for herd immunity, we need to get everyone – absolutely everyone – vaccinated. Even teens whose parents may be hesitant.

This week brought much-anticipated news: Canada’s official instruction now recommends a “two dose set” of Pfizer BioNtech vaccine for youth aged 12 and up. It’s another box to check toward the endgame of returning to some sort of normal. From this one-shot-summer, to a two-shot-fall.

As we wait for word how the rollout will happen for our kids and teens, I want to ponder something related, but often swept under the mat: parental control over vaccine for young people

The mass majority of eligible British Columbians are all in on getting their jab: about 90%, according Angus Reid.

While the percentage of hesitant or anti-vaxxers is low, we cannot leave the kids and teens in those families behind to remain vulnerable if they want to be vaccinated.

Without breaking any confidences, I recently had a talk with a longtime friend that went something like:

Have you had yours?
Yes, two doses actually. Can’t wait for everyone to be vaccinated, you?
Wish I could get mine, but you know (husband), he’s not in. Me and the kids want to get our shots but…we will see…
Wait, what?

Her “kids” are both mid-to-late-teens. They are now both eligible and motivated, but held back by Dad’s vaccine hesitancy. I know Dad well, and like him. He’s smart, not at all abusive, nor a bully. But clearly he’s fallen down the rabbit hole of distrust when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines.

I’m sure this family isn’t alone. Inter-family anti-vaxx influence can put the breaks on getting protected. Can we have a discussion about allowing informed consent for vaccinations?

Surely pediatricians, family therapists, and educators could create some sort of simple test to set a basis for informed consent by a teen. Let these young people choose what happens to their body. Ensure access to COVID-19 vaccines for everyone, without their antivaxx parents being alerted.

When I was 14, my scientist mother made an appointment with our GP, and made sure they had consent where contraceptives were concerned. I was so young (I hadn’t yet so much as kissed a boy) but Mom said, “she’s going to come to you for birth control at some point and I am telling you, right now, to give it to her.”

I was equal parts mortified and relieved. I also felt like my mom trusted me to be in charge of my own body; she empowered me.

For those who want to politicize this – please do not. Protecting young people should not be political fodder but more a societal tsunami.

Kids living with anti-vax adults should not be trapped by their age. Imagine having your number come up and you are not allowed!

As a mother of a 13-year-old high schooler, I’m hoping a COVID-19 shot course can be integrated into current vaccine rollout in schools. Surrounded by peers feeling excited to be protected, and educators who can help each young person navigate any hesitancy.

Today’s Middle is on a mission to address the small slice of society who might have vaccine hesitancy at their family helm; someone putting up roadblocks on the path to immunity. It’s an ask of our leaders to provide a path to consent for young adults and teens who wish to be inoculated.

There needs to be a way for my friend, married to an otherwise well adjusted human who’s bought into the anti-vaxx rhetoric to get her and her children vaccinated, but barring that her kids should be able to do it on their own. Let there be no hesitation when someone asks to get take their shot.

Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who’s spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.

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