TRENTON — Newly proposed legislation would give minors in New Jersey the right to consent to vaccinations, beginning when they turn 14 years old, regardless of whether their parents or guardians consent.

The proposal would cover vaccines for a range of communicable diseases: polio, mumps, measles, diphtheria, rubella, chickenpox, Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib), pertussis, tetanus, pneumococcal disease, meningococcal disease, human papillomavirus or hepatitis B.

“Under my proposed bill, minors can consent to their own medical treatments in the event that their parents may have reservations regarding vaccinations,” said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Bergen, the bill’s sponsor. “If signed into law, this would ensure that minors of a certain age would have autonomy over their bodies and their health.”

Vainieri Huttle said the change is needed due to recent measles outbreaks in the United States, including in New Jersey.

Statistics show an increasing number of children aren’t being immunized. In the four grades in which New Jersey schools report data, 5.4% of students had not met all immunization requirements in 2017-18, up from 4.7% four years earlier.

“Whether that’s due to philosophical exemptions, I think we need to allow minors to catch up on their vaccinations if they so choose,” Vainieri Huttle said.

“I think today, minors have certain technical skills where they can navigate the Internet and educate themselves with medically backed information about vaccines,” she said.

Vainieri Huttle said the bill is modeled after a proposal in New York. She said 18 states have laws allowing minors to consent to vaccinations and cited the Ohio teen, Ethan Lindenberger, who got vaccinated despite his mother’s opposition.

One difference is that Lindenberger was 18 years old.

“In New Jersey, we already have minor consent for medical and surgical treatment if minors are married or pregnant. And 17-year-olds can also decide whether they want to donate blood,” Vainieri Huttle said. “So this is certainly a first step into the need for vaccination for minors as they are being informed. And it’s to protect the child and others at risk.”

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