With the new push on for 12-year olds in Ontario to get the COVID-19 vaccine before the start of the new school year, it raises the question of whether 12-year-olds can provide their own consent for receiving the vaccine, or is this something to be decided by a parent or guardian?
The law appears to come down on the side of youth being able to make their own informed decision.
Public health units in Toronto, Peel region and York region are providing vaccines to self-consenting 12- to 15-year-olds without parental consent being required.
The same will be happening for young people in Sudbury.
"Public Health Sudbury & Districts will be following a capacity-based consent process, which means that individuals who are capable of making an informed decision themselves can consent to receive the vaccine without requiring a consent form, including youth 12 and over at the time of immunization," responded the health unit, when asked by Sudbury.com.
"In these situations, parents play a key role in helping youth make an informed decision about vaccination. Parents are encouraged to answer questions about the benefits and risks of getting vaccinated against COVID-19, and any consequences if they do not get vaccinated. In instances where youth do not have the capacity to consent to receiving the vaccine, such as those with special needs, consent from their substitute decision-maker, such as their parent or legal guardian will be needed," said PHSD.
The health unit has also been providing regular updates on COVID-19 vaccines, along with links to provincial websites and more that provide what is regarded as reliable and evidence-based information.Public Health Ontario provides a document — the COVID-19 Vaccine Youth (Age 12-17) Consent Form — and it has no requirement for having consent being provided by an older person.In addition to that, Ontario also has The Health Care Consent Act, which states there is no minimum age to provide consent for vaccination and a child does not need external permission to receive one. The act has nearly 300 references to consent issues, but in general the consent issue involves persons, who by mental disability or some other incapacitating situation are not easily able to provide consent to health care.
Section 11 of the Act deals with Elements of Consent and states the following elements are required for consent to treatment:
1. The consent must relate to the treatment.
2. The consent must be informed.
3. The consent must be given voluntarily.
4. The consent must not be obtained through misrepresentation or fraud.
The Sudbury health unit announced earlier this week that in accordance with provincial guidance, it will soon be providing the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine to people aged 12 and older who wish to receive it.
Len Gillis is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter at Sudbury.com. He covers health care in Northern Ontario.
Len Gillis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sudbury.com