A federal judge has blocked D.C. from enforcing a law that allows children to be vaccinated without the consent of a parent.
Judge Trevor N. McFadden of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said allowing children as young as 11 to decide for themselves on vaccinations violates parents’ religious liberty.
In 2020, the D.C. Council passed the Minor Consent for Vaccinations Amendment Act, which lets a child be vaccinated without their parents’ knowledge, if a provider decides the child is capable of consent.
Under the law, children with parents who object to vaccines on religious grounds could access their own medical records. Providers would be allowed to seek reimbursement directly from the insurer without parental knowledge or consent.
McFadden ruled the law “targets religious parents” by withholding information available to secular parents who file a medical exemption for their children and said it was preempted by the federal National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.
The law has been challenged twice by religious parents in D.C.
In one case, the father of a teen boy attending KIPP Academy alleges that the District has caused a “pressure-cooker environment, enticing and psychologically manipulating” their child to “defy their parents and take vaccinations against their parents’ wills.”
The father, whose religion isn’t specified, alleges his child is “medically frail” and vaccinations caused his son to develop autoimmunity disorder, alopecia, asthma, and eczema. As a result, he said, he is of the sincere religious belief that he shouldn’t “inject a foreign substance into his son’s body that may harm him” and objects to the COVID-19 vaccine as well as all standard childhood vaccines.
The parent is represented by Children’s Health Defense, an organization run by anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who called the decision “a major legal victory.”
Another lawsuit was filed by a Maryland father whose 16-year-old daughter sought a vaccine in D.C. in order to attend a summer camp. This father claimed the girl tried to go behind his back despite his religious objections and her having a severe reaction to a vaccine when she was younger. The girl ultimately was not vaccinated.
McFadden said he doesn’t anticipate a wide-ranging impact from the injunction. He wrote that his ruling won’t stop children from being vaccinated, “nor will it prevent the District from continuing to advertise the importance of vaccines, incentivizing vaccinations, and setting up vaccine clinics in schools. The only impact will be that children will be unable to decide to get vaccinations without their parents’ consent.”