MCMINNVILLE, Ore — Before Thursday's board meeting, Commission Chair Mary Starrett convinced the Yamhill County health and human services director to require the consent from parents for teens ages 15-17 getting a coronavirus vaccine.
The director, Dr. Lindsey Manfrin, initially went along with the request but then reversed course. Now she’s saying it's not a good decision to require that consent, legally or for teenagers.
“I just want to clarify, my concern has always been there related to the request and I don't have much else to share with you,” Manfrin said at a Thursday commissioner’s board meeting in Yamhill County.
“I made a mistake and I've tried very hard to rectify that and make my position clear, and I hope that I've been able to do that," said Manfrin, who suggested postponing a vote to allow for a thorough review of the consent issue.
Commissioner Lindsay Berschauer thinks the COVID-19 vaccines are what need more review.
“I'm the parent of three teens; this is a huge concern and the concern is not that a 15, 16 or 17-year-old has the power of consent in Oregon. It is that this particular vaccine is not FDA-approved,” Berschauer said
Berschauer and Starrett's argument to require parental consent seemed to hinge in large part on their extreme views about COVID-19 vaccine safety.
"Let's look at the ingredients. I've got one here that talks about chimpanzee DNA and that's in one of the vaccines — fetal stem cells, that's in one of the vaccines; there's a whole host of other ingredients you wouldn't drink much less inject into yourself. And we're asking a child to make these considerations,” said Starrett at one point during the discussion.
It is important to note, Starrett’s comments about vaccine ingredients have been debunked by experts as untrue. The vaccines are approved under federal emergency use authorization and deemed safe and highly effective by the vast majority of the scientific community.
And again, state law allows teenagers 15 and older to decide for themselves about getting vaccinated, along with consenting to other medical and dental procedures.
Commissioner Casey Kulla wanted to keep it that way, so the potentially illegal move could be studied. But he lost the vote.
Commissioners voted 2-1 to require county staff to get parental consent before vaccinating kids under 18 and also for a resolution recommending awareness of the potential risks of COVID vaccinations.
And they're not the only ones. Linn County made a similar decision last week.
The Oregon Health Authority released a statement in response. It said in part "COVID-19 puts people of all ages at risk. Every eligible Oregonian—including young adults 15 or older—should have access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, if they want one, without having to overcome barriers that could prevent their getting the vaccine, and put their health and the health of those around them at risk."
The OHA also updated its guidance for vaccine administration sites and providers. It now includes a section that reminds those administering vaccines they are prohibited from requiring parental or guardian consent for those ages 15-17, under state law.