By Pamela Tom | HPVANDME Founder
When parents love their children, they will do anything to protect and keep them safe, right? The HPV vaccine helps prevent six types of cancers that today’s teens may develop as adults. Yet some parents will not give permission for their kids to be vaccinated—even when their sons and daughters want to be protected. Several groups of teens are now helping other teens learn how to approach their parents with information, have honest conversations about vaccination, and hopefully, gain their parents’ consent.
In 2019, at age 12, Arin Parsa of San Jose, California founded Teens for Vaccines, a nonprofit organization to support his peers whose parents won’t consent to vaccination.
Parsa says there are two types of parents: the ones who are simply hesitant about vaccine safety, and those called “anti-vaxxers” or who are completely opposed to vaccination.
“One (type of) parent is vaccine hesitant. They are more concerned with one vaccine such as the HPV vaccine where there are doubts about why their kids need it,” says Parsa. “Or you have the extreme ‘anti-vax’ parents where there is no real hope of creating a dialogue.”
Parsa and his team provide tips for teens who want to get vaccinated about how to talk with their parents. The Teens for Vaccines guidebook suggests:
- Be informed and educate yourself first.
- Find a time when your parents are relaxed and not stressed.
- If your parents keep avoiding the topic, email them with useful, informative links.
- Thank your parents for caring about you, and your health.
- Be honest and vocal about your feelings.
- Ask your parents if they would be willing to talk to others who support your position: relatives, teachers, school nurses.
- Seek out local immunization events designed for parents.
- If these things don’t work, inform yourself about Minor Consent Laws in your state.
In California, for example, Assembly Bill 499 (approved in 2011) allows minors 12 and older to give their own consent for services that prevent sexually transmitted diseases, including the HPV vaccine. In 2022, CA Senate Bill 866 would have allowed teens 15 years and older to consent to other preventative medical care, including COVID-19 vaccination—without their parents’ permission. Parsa testified at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing to support SB 866; however, Sen. Scott Wiener pulled the bill in August when it was clear that he didn’t have the votes.
In a press release, Sen. Wiener said, “Sadly, months of harassment and misinformation — including death threats against me and teen advocates — by a small but highly vocal and organized minority of anti-vaxxers have taken their toll. The health of young people will suffer as a result. SB 866 did nothing more than empower young people to protect their own health, even if their parents have been brain-washed by anti-vax propaganda or are abusive or neglectful.
“We are not 100% sure yet if we will bring it back,” says Catie Stewart, communications director for Sen. Wiener.
Currently, 17 states and the District of Columbia have Minor Consent Laws with varying permissions and restrictions regarding vaccination. What is consistent across borders and the science: the HPV vaccine is safe and effective. The CDC also provides ways for doctors to answer parents’ questions about the HPV vaccine. Teens may use these answers to talk to their own parents.
The CDC recommends the HPV vaccine for girls and boys at 11 to 12 years of age, or as early as 9 years.