The COVID-19 vaccine has stirred up many conspiracy theories about the legitimacy of the vaccine and its side effects. This has created turbulence in the teen demographic. One of the more critical side effects no one has brought up is the silent impact on relationships in families, which has torn families apart based on political, religious beliefs and created a hostile environment for children in anti-vax families.
According to a study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a quarter of parents in the United States will not get their children vaccinated against COVID-19. Our public health is endangered because of this, no doubt, but so are the children in anti-vax families. It is essential to recognize that many teens and children want the vaccine but simply do not have parental consent. Their circumstances are unfortunate and make them an easy target for hate at no fault of their own. I sat down with an anonymous source at Boulder High School who was in this exact situation, except, in her case, she tried to get the vaccine, and she did.
Teens naturally gravitate towards disobeying parents and guardians and are often in the wrong; however, in this case, she was right. Disobeying your parents to do simple things like hanging out with your friends past your curfew or ditch school for a day is risky, so what would prompt you to go against your family’s beliefs and take a vaccine they don’t trust? Well, the source’s motive was to keep herself and her friends safe.
“[My dad] is anti-vax, and I knew he wasn’t taking any precautions in his life. He was going out, seeing people, going to huge events. And my mom works in sales, so she sees a lot of people too.”
She said she felt “there was a risk in my life just by him living his life because he didn’t feel the need to be careful.” She felt like she was missing out on getting back to normalcy, and even though she was conflicted, she decided to get the vaccine to protect herself and protect her friends and family.
She’s a part of a massive wave of young people taking responsibility for their health to put an end to COVID-19. She was so determined, she decided to get her first shot on vacation in Florida and had her grandma accompanied her and assured her that she would take the blame if anyone found out. Her mom took her for her second dose back in Boulder, but not without more obstacles following her second dose. “I did get sick afterwards,” she said, “ and I ended up being at my dad’s house while I was sick, so I just kind of had to act like I was just feeling fine because I didn’t want him to ask too many questions.”
As a minor, there are many resources available to help get the vaccine, even though you may not have parental consent. Organizations like VaxTeen and Teens for Vaccines that fight against deadly misinformation about vaccines interact directly with teens and young adults and urge and assist those who are unvaccinated to catch up on vaccines as soon as possible. They have information on minor consent laws, vaccine guides so you can keep up to date with your immunizations, articles to show families who are anti-vax and they have Title-X clinics (clinics that provide comprehensive family planning and preventative health services to people) finders. Colorado also recently proposed the Protecting Preventive Health Care Coverage bill, granting minors the ability to self-consent to vaccinations.
The source was lucky enough to get the vaccine even though she was restricted. Her message to other students in her position is, “I feel like a lot of families try and make you feel a lot of guilt about getting vaccinated. If you can, don’t feel guilty about making this decision. You are making the right decision, and you’re doing something that’s not only protecting yourself, but it’s also protecting others.”