Fact check: The DC Council passed a law to allow minors over age 11 to consent to vaccines

The claim: Democrats passed legislation to vaccinate children without parental knowledge or consent

On Oct. 20, the Council of the District of Columbia voted 12-1 to approve a bill that will allow children age 11 and older to obtain vaccines without their parents’ consent, per the Washington Post.

After another vote in November and the legislation's forwarding to Mayor Muriel Bowser in December, the legislation was enacted into law on Dec. 23.

On Dec. 29, Conservative Brief published a story about the measure, "D.C. Passes Bill to Immunize Children Without Parental Knowledge, Consent." Conservative Brief is a news and opinion site.

Along with the story, the website published a photo of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the face of the nation's response to COVID-19.

Later that day, talk show host Chuck Woolery shared the story from Conservative Brief on Twitter with the caption, "Dems Pass Bill to Vaccinate Children Without Parental Knowledge, Consent." His tweet was later shared on Facebook by accounts like La Flama Blanca.

Conservative Brief, Woolery and La Flama Blanca have not responded to requests from USA TODAY for comment.

Doctor giving an injection into a child's arm

D.C. Council passed a law to allow minors, age 11 and older, rather than parents, to consent to vaccines

Most of the factual components of the story from Conservative Brief are accurate and consistent with information from the D.C. Council.

The legislation dictates that minors, age 11 or older, "may consent to receive a vaccine where the minor is capable of meeting the informed consent standard" and the vaccine is government-recommended.

Doctors will determine if their minor patients meet the standard for informed consent, defined as the ability "to comprehend the need for, the nature of, and any significant risks ordinarily inherent in the medical care."

The legislation also requires doctors to "seek reimbursement, without parental consent, directly from the insurer" and "submit the immunization record directly to the minor’s school," rather than their parents.

It's worth noting that the story from Conservative Brief includes quotes from The Vaccine Reaction, an anti-vaccine website published by The National Vaccine Information Center. Those quotes are opinion, not fact. 

There is also no reason for Fauci to be pictured — a choice that has led some readers to falsely believe the law was a national measure or related to COVID-19, per Snopes.

In truth, the legislation was a local measure specific to Washington, D.C., and was unrelated to COVID-19. The law was actually prompted by measles outbreaks in 2019.

More:Fact check: Pregnant women do receive vaccines, but more study needed on COVID-19 shot

Posts on Twitter and Facebook about the legislation also could be misleading, because they attribute the measure to "Dems" rather than the D.C. Council.  Although it's true that the D.C. Council is comprised only of Democrats, the measure was local, not national, and is not necessarily representative of the Democratic Party.

The legislation also doesn't require minors to receive vaccines, or allow them to be vaccinated without any form of consent. It simply allows them, rather than their parents, to decide whether they want to be vaccinated — provided that they are age 11 or older and deemed capable of informed consent.

Our ruling: Missing context

Based on our research, the claim that Democrats passed legislation to vaccinate children without parental knowledge or consent is MISSING CONTEXT. In reality, the D.C. Council passed legislation to allow minors, age 11 and over, rather than their parents, to decide whether they want to receive government-recommended vaccines.

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