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Can Russian children get vaccinated without their parents’ permission?

Meduza
Louafi Larbi / Reuters / Scanpix / LETA

Children have asked for advice online to get around anti-vaxxer parents

In late January, the writer Andrea Phillips pointed out that children in the United States had been posting frequently on Reddit to ask how they could receive immunizations without their parents’ permission. U.S. law on the matter varies from state to state, but it typically prohibits children under 18 from requesting health care on their own. In some cases, exceptions can be made. For example, some states allow doctors to determine whether they believe a child is mature enough to make decisions about their own treatment.

English-language media coverage on the issue has been extensive. Much of it has focused on the case of Ethan Lindenberger, an 18-year-old American whose story was first reported by the pop science publication Undark. The young man posted on Reddit to ask what he should do about the fact that he had received only one vaccination in the course of his entire life. Ethan’s mother actively opposes vaccinations, and his father shares her views. Ethan unsuccessfully attempted to persuade them to change their minds and ultimately began receiving recommended vaccinations on his own once he turned 18.

Stories like Ethan’s have led to calls for decreasing the age at which a child can make health care decisions. The necessary basis for such a move does exist in international law.

Russian children can request vaccines at age 15

Russia’s Federal Law Number 323 states that from the age of 15, a child can give informed consent to medical intervention independently of their parents. Medical intervention includes vaccinations. The issue of child vaccination has gained increasing attention in Russia due to rapidly growing rates of measles infections.

Russian medical organizations can also sue parents if they refuse to approve treatment that is necessary to save a child’s life. This right could be applicable in cases of post-exposure prophylaxis, when a vaccination is administered after contact with a dangerous virus or bacterium.

Some children have chosen to continue trying to persuade their parents

Children who ask for advice on Reddit but are too young to request vaccinations on their own are frequently told to continue telling their parents about the safety of vaccines while turning to doctors and nurses for help if needed. Children can also simply wait until they are old enough to request their own health care legally.

For his part, Ethan Lindenberg said his relationship with his mother has become tense: she saw his vaccinations as a betrayal and began to explain her opposition to vaccinations to her younger children in greater detail. Ethan said other children should be more open with their parents where vaccinations are concerned in order to avoid repeating his mistakes.

Darya Sarkisyan

Translation by Hilah Kohen