Opinion | Numerous bills have been introduced in state legislatures throughout the United States that seek to preserve parental rights with regard to vaccination. States that have proposed legislation to ensure that parents have the information they need to give informed consent to vaccination include Arizona, Connecticut, Idaho, Iowa, Illinois, Mississippi, Montana, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.1
One example is Arizona’s Senate Bill (SB) 1115, which would require that prior to vaccination, vaccine administrators provide parents or guardians of minor children all pertinent information on risks versus benefits of vaccines, vaccine ingredients, vaccine product inserts and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) vaccine excipient list. The bill would also require those who give vaccines to provide parents or guardians information on how to recognize an adverse reaction to vaccination and how to report it if one occurs.2
In discussing SB 1115, the bill’s sponsor, Arizona State Senator Paul Boyer, said, “Parents are entitled to the same kind of ‘informed consent’ about vaccines as they would get before any medical procedure.”3
Will Humble, who is Executive Director of the Arizona Public Health Association, expressed concerns that Sen. Boyer’s bill might cause some parents to avoid vaccinating their children. He said that parents already get all the vaccine information the CDC has determined they need and in “a form that is understandable.”
Humble said that “inundating parents with technical information that is not meaningful and potentially confusing will result in doctors having to spend valuable time with explaining the technical information instead of talking to parents about things like keeping their children safe at home and in cars.” He further stressed that giving parents lists of ingredients undermines efforts to get “meaningful informed consent” since people won’t understand the information they’re reading.3
Sen. Boyer countered that parents are being denied timely information to which they are entitled and should be trusted to make their own informed decision. He stated:
Everybody who goes for an operation procedure or anything, they’re informed, they’re told of all the risks that could happen with whatever procedure it is… They’re not given the surgery and then, after the fact, told, ‘Oh, by the way, here are the known adverse effects.’3
SB 1115 would also require that any informational or educational materials the [health] department develops or provides to parents and guardians with regard to vaccination shall include [the same inclusive information]. Federal law under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act (NCVIA) of 1986 mandates that parents be given a Vaccine Information Statement (VIS) published by the CDC before children are given federal recommended vaccines.4 However, there are no penalties when doctors do not give parents the VIS and current Arizona state law only requires that parents receive a list of vaccine reactions to watch for after their child has been given a vaccine.5
Vaccines, like any other pharmaceutical product, carry a risk of harm and those risks can be greater for some individuals. Informed consent to medical risk taking is a human right and parents should always be allowed to exercise the right of informed consent to vaccination on behalf of their minor children.
Parents deserve to be aware of information such as the fact that neither manufacturers of vaccines nor those who administer them may be held legally accountable in a US. civil court of law for any injury or death caused by a vaccine. They deserve to know that if a child is injured by a federally licensed and recommended vaccine, an injury claim must filed within a certain period of time with the federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) to be eligible for compensation. They deserve know that, even though the majority of vaccine injury petitions are dismissed, the U.S. government has paid out more than $4 billion dollars to compensate victims of vaccination.6
Yet, this kind of information is, typically, not made available to parents as part of the process of informed consent to vaccination.
It is presumptuous to assume that parents would not be capable of understanding the risks and benefits of vaccination if offered full disclosure before they agree to submit their children to this medical procedure.
This article or commentary provides referenced information and perspective on a topic related to vaccine science, policy, law or ethics being discussed in public forums and by U.S. lawmakers. The websites of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) provide information and perspective of federal agencies responsible for vaccine research, development, regulation and policymaking.
1 National Vaccine Information Center. Talking Points. NVIC Advocacy Portal 2019.
2 NVIC. Requires Health Professionals Administering Vaccines To Provide Information Before Vaccination. NVIC Advocacy Portal Jan. 23, 2019.
3 Fischer H. Bill Mandates Informed Consent For Childhood Vaccinations. Arizona Capitol Times Jan. 25, 2019.
4 NVIC. National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act. NVIC.org.
5 See Footnote 2.
6 Vaccine Injury Compensation Data. Health Resources & Services Administration April 2019.