Teenagers are going behind their parents’ backs to gain access to vaccinations.
They are defying the wishes of their anti-vaccine parents by legally turning to doctors who can deliver vaccines such as the meningococcal jab, health experts say.
Doctors say there is growing awareness of laws which allow teens to get vaccinated without their parents’ consent.
“There’s no room for complacency when it comes to immunisation,” AMA Queensland’s Dr Michael Cleary told 7News.
“It’s very clear that if you are over 18 you are an adult, and you can make your own decisions but there are provisions for those who are under 18 to make decisions about their health.”
Most states have what is known as mature minor laws where teenagers can be vaccinated without their parent’s consent.
Doctors look at things like their independence and their understanding of the consequences.
The move to allow teenagers to access vaccinations that they didn’t receive as children comes as the vaccination rate in parts of Queensland has dropped to as low as 88.9 per cent, well below the Australian Medical Association’s national target of 95 per cent.
Vaccination concerns discussed on social media
Teens have taken to Facebook to discuss their dilemmas when it comes to seeking vaccinations.
“I am writing because I am the 15-year-old son of an anti-vaccine parent. I have spent the last four years trying to convince my mother that vaccines are safe,” one teen wrote.
“I haven’t succeeded. So, instead, I am trying to research how to be vaccinated without my mother’s consent.”
Another said she was left “horrified” by her mother saying she was vaccinated for whooping cough with homoeothapy.
“I was horrified and asked my dad and he said he took me (and siblings) to get vaccinated without telling her,” she wrote.
Dr Cleary said when a person is under 18 and presents to a general practitioner they will take into account the persons capability to make decisions for themselves.
He said that while the decision making with children aged between 15 and 18 is generally straight forward thanks to state law which allows immunisation without parental consent, when the child is 14 and younger it can become “complicated”.
“Within our society we do have children who are 14 years of age and are fairly independent and independent of their parents,” he pointed out.
“In their circumstances, there may be a more flexible approach.”
Dr Cleary said if teenagers have a different opinion to their parents on vaccinations, it makes the decision “far more difficult,” however he encouraged both parties to openly discuss the matter freely in the home.
In NSW, teenagers wanting to be vaccinated under the age of 16 will be assessed to see if they full understand the risks involved, however 16 and 17 year olds hold the same rights as adults when it comes to jabs.