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Whose choice is it, anyway? Debates heat up between parents and teens about vaccines

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Posted at 10:33 PM, May 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-20 11:58:03-04

AKRON, Ohio — With teens now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, debates are heating up between parents about whether to vaccinate their children.

Tattoos, voting, and joining the U.S. military without parental consent are all things Ohio teens must be 18 years old to decide on their own.

“I took everyone's input to heart, but I definitely made my own decision when it came to getting the vaccine,” Madison Roman said.

The COVID-19 vaccine is sparking dialogue among some Ohio families as adults ultimately reserve the right to make medical decisions for their children.

“Parents have an absolute right to direct the care of their children. Minors are not the ones that give informed consent to treatment or vaccination. The child, if they are a minor, does not have the right to say that or to refuse that kind of treatment,” attorney Sharona Hoffman said. “When you have parents who are divorced and are disagreeing, that's a difficult situation and often those cases end up in court.”

For Carol Cottrill and her 13-year-old son, the decision to roll up his sleeve was personal.

“I never had any hesitation. I lost my father to this in January. It's been hard and it was an easy decision to get him vaccinated. He always wanted a vaccine. He was waiting until they approved it,” Cottrill said.

Sam Cottrill said he hopes other teens his age will consider registering for the vaccine.

“As soon as they were talking about vaccines for older people, I immediately thought, ‘When it's when it's available for me, I'm going to get it,’” Sam said.

April Boyden said her 12-year-old son didn’t have much of a say in the matter.

“I really didn't give him a choice here. I made them get it because I want my kids to be vaccinated. I mean, he gets vaccinated for the flu so every year so I want to keep the vaccinations up to date,” Boyden said. “I got vaccinated so I felt that my whole family should get vaccinated because, with COVID, you don't know what it could do to your family.”

Maurice Farr said at the end of the day, Mom and Dad know best.

“I think the parents should make the decision for the child because you know best and for the reopening of the world, it’s just a safe thing to do,” Farr said. “I think the young kids are a little reckless and can be a little haphazard because of their age. I think they should get it to not just think about themselves, but think about others.”

Dr. Erika Sobolewski, Medical Director of Summit County Public Health, said the decision to vaccinate should be a collaboration between parents and teens.

“I think it's an informed decision that comes through with both the parents and the teen on what's best for them. It's understanding and asking those questions. ‘What are your concerns? What can I answer? What are you afraid of?’ And talk through that,” Sobolewski said. “Everyone has to make a decision about what's best for them. We can only use the tools we have in the toolbox at that moment in time. As time goes on, hopefully, we'll gain more tools and have a better understanding of where things are, but unfortunately, that's what we're faced with at this time.”

Jennifer Smith had that dinner table discussion with her 13-year-old daughter and allowed her to ask questions and voice her concerns.

“It’s kind of a no-brainer for us that this was what we were going to do. I think it's just that you have to have that open discussion. You have to really listen to your child,” Smith said. “We did talk to Matilda about it before we did it and told her, you know, it's like any other vaccine. We vaccinate you against the flu every year. You guys can research that together to discuss it with each other. You can always talk to your pediatrician.”

Medical experts recommend consulting your pediatrician with your children.