COVID-19 vaccination sites and pharmacies are starting to prepare for the next group of people to be vaccinated. It will be the youngest group yet. Starting Monday in Wisconsin, anyone 16 and older is eligible for the shot.
But just because you’re 16 or 17 years old and want the COVID-19 vaccine next week, doesn’t mean you can just show up and get one.
“You actually need consent from both the parent and child,” said Attorney William Sulton.
“They can’t demand a treatment that their parents don’t want them to have, so there has to be alignment,” said Dr. Arthur Derse, a professor of Bioethics at the Medical College of Wisconsin.
Sixteen and 17-year-olds are still considered minors. At every vaccine clinic run by local and state health departments, they must be accompanied by a parent or guardian, who will be required to sign a consent form. That goes for private pharmacies as well.
Pfizer is the only vaccine approved for young people so far.
“I think Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services will have to consider prioritizing the Pfizer vaccine for minors,” said Sulton.
A spokesperson for Hayat Pharmacies revealed Wednesday that their supply for teenagers will be very limited at first.
Still, a lot of parents are all in, hoping to get their teenagers vaccinated as soon as possible.
“I talked about it with my son, and he told me he is ready. He just wasn’t sure how to go about getting it,” said Ann McCullough McKaig. “So we have been researching that. We will go together. In a lot of ways, it’s a game-changer because it means we can go see grandparents sooner.”
Others, though, are simply not ready.
“I haven’t taken the vaccine myself because I really want to get a good feel for what it can, or may do, to certain people,” said one mother. “I feel right now it’s a little too early to consider teens be a part of that. We don’t want to force our kids to do something that they may not even be ready to do.”
Many experts believe this issue could lead to health departments and schools requiring students to get the vaccine. They already require proof that students have been vaccinated for other diseases, like the measles, with some exceptions, for religious or other personal reasons.
“The law permits a parent to sign a declaratory statement saying they object for religious or personal conviction grounds,” said Sulton. “But, schools are required to protect students and staff from communicable diseases, and COVID-19 certainly falls in that category. The only difference here is that it’s a new disease and a new vaccine. It’s not a part of the scheduled vaccines that DHS has already published for schools.”
Medical professionals are urging families to do their research or take to a doctor they trust.
“There is a lot of data proving that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective for teenagers,” said Dr. Derse. “But time is of the essence. The strains of the coronavirus that are developing and mutating are ones that can be transmitted in adolescents, even if they never feel ill. That can lead to them spreading it to others, including those who are immunocompromised. As long as it continues to spread, the virus can mutate further, and lead to the vaccine being less effective for all of us.”