What Happens If A 16- Or 17-Year-Old Wants Covid Vaccine, But Parents Say No?

Mar 31, 2021

Idaho will make vaccines available to anyone 16 or older, beginning next Monday.
Credit Flickr Creative Commons

The Covid vaccine will soon be available to anyone 16 and older in Washington and Idaho. But what happens if a 16- or 17-year-old wants to be inoculated, yet his or her parents say no?

On Monday, Idaho will take away the restrictions for adults, as well as 16- and 17-year-olds. Many health districts in the Gem State, including the agency that serves the five northern counties, have already done so.

In Washington, Governor Inslee is expected to announce Wednesday that the Evergreen State will move to make vaccines available to all 16 and older, beginning April 15.

In both Washington and Idaho, 18 is the age of consent for many things, including vaccinations. If a 16- or 17-year-old wants to go against a parent’s wishes and get a Covid shot, the answer of whether he or she should get it is not always no, but it’s not always yes either, says Idaho state deputy epidemiologist Kathryn Turner.

“There are a couple of statutes that may apply or that minor might get a court order to be able to have that ability to do their consent for their own health care. But because the way some of those are worded, the best option is for those health care providers to make their determination on their own," Turner said.

She says her agency is advising health care providers to consult with their attorneys if they’re considering giving shots to minors who don’t have signatures from parents.

In Washington, state law says minors cannot be inoculated unless they qualify under the so-called “mature minor doctrine.” That was developed after a Washington Supreme Court decision in 1967 to protect minors who can prove they’re capable of making adult decisions about their own health care. But it appears, even if someone does that, it’s up to a doctor to make the final decision to vaccinate or not to vaccinate.

We’ve reached out to the Washington Department of Health to clarify this and haven’t yet heard back.