Teens 14 and up should be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine without their parents' consent, argues a New Jersey high school student. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
As a 17 year old resident of New Jersey who is unable to get vaccinated without my parents’ consent, I feel as though I don’t have complete ownership of my body. While we remain in a pandemic that has already claimed the lives of more than 34,000 New Jersey residents, the Legislature should act and pass a law that gives teenagers like me the power to consent to vaccinations.
Not being vaccinated against COVID-19 is like taking a test with only erasers in my pencil case. The erasers can only do so much to help me pass the test, just like my immune system can only do so much to help my body fight COVID. I feel completely unprepared to take on the disease that has taken the lives of more than one million Americans.
I live in a household with many high-risk family members, and we cannot afford to catch the virus. Despite my family being at high risk for COVID-19, my family members are still afraid to receive a COVID vaccine — and who can blame them?
Our country has experienced an unprecedented wave of misinformation surrounding COVID-19 vaccines. My parents are being misled by this false information, and it is becoming the basis for decisions in regard to my health.
When the vaccines were first released, my parents didn’t take my siblings or me to the doctor for six months for fear of us being vaccinated against their will.
So what can someone in my position do? I have no options and cannot protect myself. My parents won’t give me their consent to be vaccinated, and for some reason, my own consent is not enough.
This is all the more reason that the New Jersey Assembly needs to act and put the power into the hands of the state’s teens. A bill introduced in February (A2679) would do just that and finally give anyone 14 years or older the ability to properly defend our bodies from vaccine-preventable diseases.
Legislation like A2679 is already underway in many other states, with the California Senate recently voting to pass SB866, another minor consent bill. It will now move to the state’s Assembly, where it is expected to pass. A bill under consideration in Pennsylvania, HB1818, would allow teens 14 and up to consent to vaccinations. So what’s taking so long in New Jersey?
Cases in New Jersey may have fallen since the first wave of the virus hit us in 2020, but teens are still contracting COVID-19 at school. A lack of preparation is the main cause behind this and is causing disruptions in students’ education. If education is so important to the government, then why are they not doing everything in their power to ensure mine is not interrupted by quarantine or, even worse, a two-week hospital visit?
Many of my classmates have contracted COVID-19, and the majority of them were unvaccinated. This has only increased my anxiety about contracting the virus and passing it on to my family and friends, and my worry of causing someone else to catch the virus only grows each day I’m not vaccinated.
There is more than enough reason to pass sensible legislation like A2679 and give teenagers like me access to life-saving vaccines.
New Jersey, it’s time to act.
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