Children should be able to get vaccines even if their parents don’t want them to, top doctors in the US have ruled.
The American Medical Association – the country’s largest doctors’ union – this week voted to give ‘mature’ children as young as 12 the power of consent.
Their ruling comes as measles cases in the nation continue to surge, reaching a 25-year record of over 1,000.
Anti-vaccination sentiment among parents, spread on social media, is being blamed for the spread of the virus which can be stopped by the MMR jab.
‘Minors who have demonstrated capacity… and who are able to provide informed consent should be able to receive vaccinations regardless of the flawed beliefs of their guardians,’ said Dr Sarp Aksel, an AMA representative in New York, according to MedPage Today.
‘The AMA should remain committed to efforts to increase vaccination rates, and this resolution should support state legislators to establish policies.’
The AMA voted on the measure at its annual meeting in Chicago and said it would encourage state lawmakers to put its policy into law.
According to MSN News, another member of the association, Dr Bobby Mukkamala said: ‘The prevalence of unvaccinated pediatric patients is troubling to physicians.
‘Many children go unvaccinated as anti-vaccine-related messages and advertisements target parents with misinformation.
‘Allowing mature minors to provide informed consent to vaccinations will ensure these patients can access this type of preventive care.’
As of Monday, June 10, 1,022 cases of measles had been diagnosed in the US in 2019, making this the worst year for the virus since 1992, which saw 2,126.
The US is on track to lose its official ‘elimination’ status which is given to countries by the World Health Organization when an infection is no longer common there.
AMA members recognised parental resistance as an issue in trying to vaccinate children.
But they also said giving children the power to decide may lead to them turning down vaccines which their parents want them to have.
And deciding who qualifies as a ‘mature’ child is a ‘fuzzy’ area, one admitted, with concerns it may only be applied to those aged 16 and over.
The AMA advised that physicians should be the ones to determine whether a child was mature enough to make a decision about their own vaccination.
However, the group stopped short of instructing doctors on how to determine adolescent patients’ aptitude.
Instead, it promised to develop ‘model legislation to aid states in developing their own policies to allow “mature minors” (defined as someone who is old enough to understand and appreciate the consequences of a medical procedure, as determined by their physician) to self consent for vaccinations.’
Parents would also still have to pay for the vaccinations and the change could risk ‘chipping away at parental rights’, added Dr Kevin Reilly from the Radiological Society of North America.
Worldwide, the number of measles cases in the first quarter of 2019 were four times higher than during the same period last year.
The World Health Organization has warned slipping vaccination rates are partly to blame for the recent worldwide spate of measles outbreaks, including huge increases in Ukraine, Brazil and the Philippines.