B.C. has allowed 'mature minor consent' for vaccinations long before COVID-19 | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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B.C. has allowed 'mature minor consent' for vaccinations long before COVID-19

FILE PHOTO - A COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Rutland's Centennial Park.
June 04, 2021 - 7:30 AM

Some Central Okanagan parents are frustrated with COVID-19 vaccination letters sent directly to students informing them they can get vaccinations without parental consent but it has been the law in B.C. for years.

According to a post circulating on social media, these parents say the letter is trying to peer pressure students to “force” others to get their vaccinations.

The letter from Interior Health chief medical officer Dr. Albert de Villiers addresses students and says under the Infants Act, students do not require parental consent to receive a vaccine. It also encourages students to be influencers by encouraging others to get their shots.

De Villiers' letter states immunizers will be able to answer questions students may have and the letter contains links to B.C.'s immunization plan and HealthLinkB.C. for more information. Youth ages 12 to 17 are currently being offered the Pfizer vaccine, the only one currently approved by Health Canada for use for youth.

Central Okanagan Public Schools superintendent Kevin Kaardal said the letter was distributed to parents through their school messenger program, which uses text messages or emails parents provide to communicate information to students.

One parent has called about the letter and roughly 12 form letters have been received by the district, some of which were clearly copied from the United States, he said.

“The two issues appear to be mature, minor consent, in other words can a minor consent without their parents? And that’s legislation, that has nothing to do with us as a school district, that’s something they need to take up with their local MLA and the other seems to be about vaccines period,” he said.

The school district does not distribute vaccines, they provide the space and cooperate with the health authority because of the Health Act and because they’re another government agency, he said.

In a press conference last month, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said children as young as 12 can register to get vaccinated from COVID-19 and encouraged families to get vaccinated together.

In the Infants Act, "Mature minor consent" is the consent a child gives to receive health care after the child has been assessed by a health care provider as having the necessary understanding to give the consent. A child who is assessed by a healthcare provider as being capable to give consent is called a "mature minor".

A mature minor may make their own health care decisions independent of their parents’ or guardians’ wishes. In B.C. there is no set age when a child is considered capable to give consent, according to HealthLinkB.C.

It’s not the first time the Act has been called into question regarding vaccine consent. In 2016, a North Okanagan woman was concerned for her son since he had a bad reaction to vaccinations as a child but said she never explicitly said no to the regular vaccinations so the public health nurse asked him if he wanted one.

“Public health nurses in particular and public health physicians are very good at assessing and talking to youth so we will make sure resources are available in all of the clinics to assess if a young person comes in by themselves to make sure that they understand the implications,” Henry said in the news conference.

READ MORE: Children as young as 12 in B.C. urged to get vaccinated with their families

In the Interior Health Region, most vaccination rates among children ages seven and older were lower in 2019 than the provincial average of 69%. The East Kootenay region had 68%, the Kootenay Boundary had 59%, the Okanagan recorded 67% and the Thompson Cariboo Shuswap recorded 72%, according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.

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