What to do when parents won’t let their teens get COVID vaccines? VaxTeen offers guidance on consent laws

By Kathryn Barnes

Roughly half of Californians ages 12-17 have not received the COVID-19 vaccine, according to state data. And with the start of a new school year quickly approaching, the debate over vaccine and mask requirements for students has reignited.

Kelly Danielpour is trying to boost those numbers. Last year, she started a website called VaxTeen to help young people access vaccines and learn about their options if their parents don’t want them to get the shots.

In California, people ages 12-18 may consent to medical care related to the prevention of a sexually transmitted infection. In other words, teenagers can receive the HPV and Hepatitis B vaccine without parental consent. But when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine, it’s much harder.

“It is uniquely county by county,” says Danielpour, an 18-year-old Angeleno who’s preparing for her freshman year of college. 

In LA, parents must sign a consent form. In San Francisco, however, 12 to 17-year-olds can self consent as long as a health care provider makes a “reasonable attempt” to contact their guardian, and in that reasonable attempt, the guardian doesn't object. “So there is certainly an opportunity for self-consent, but there are definitely barriers in place.”

Kelly Danielpour founded VaxTeen after she came across a post on Reddit from a teenager whose parents were against vaccinations and was looking for advice. Photo courtesy of Kelly Danielpour.

Ultimately, Danielpour says the best option is to get your parents on board by having a conversation rooted in respect, understanding, and facts.

“A young person knows their parents best, and they know the reasons why they’re hesitant best,” she says. “They can understand it, they've been hearing it, and there is something great about a young person who knows their parents, knows what works, and their ability to use that.”