An Interdisciplinary Argument to Lower the Age of Consent for the Human Papillomavirus Vaccine

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An Interdisciplinary Argument to Lower the Age of Consent for the Human Papillomavirus Vaccine

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This thesis proposes lowering the age of consent for the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. It examines parental refusal and/or deferral to vaccinate until a later age as a barrier to improving HPV vaccination rates among adolescents. It takes an interdisciplinary approach to analyzing and addressing this issue and emphasizes both public policy and individual rights concerns. From a public policy perspective, this thesis supports the notion that states should enact laws and regulations that encourage vaccination to promote the common good. From an individual rights perspective, it argues that states should enact laws that allow minors to exercise their autonomy and choose their own futures by providing them with the right to consent to the HPV vaccine despite parental refusal. Part I provides background information on HPV and HPV-related diseases, the vaccine's development and approval, and vaccination rates. It then outlines parental rights and minor consent laws related to health care decisions. Part II discusses opposition to the HPV vaccine and lowering the age of consent, including a brief history of the origins of the anti-vaccination movement. Part III responds to Part II, providing medical, ethical, and policy-based arguments for lowering the age of consent. Part IV concludes that lowering the statutory age of consent is an appropriate and potentially effective approach to overcome the negative effect of parental refusal on HPV vaccination rates among adolescent males and females. Lowering the age of consent can increase vaccine availability and use and is consistent with many states' current policies related to treatment and diagnosis for sexually transmitted infections. This thesis argues that the age of consent for the HPV vaccine should be lowered to twelve years of age to allow young adolescents with non-consenting parents to receive this important and potentially life-saving vaccine. It concludes by proposing statutory language states can consider when amending existing laws or drafting new laws to lower the age of consent for the HPV vaccine and other similar vaccines.


University of Minnesota M.A. thesis. May 2015. Major: Bioethics. Advisor: Steven Miles. 1 computer file (PDF); iv, 163 pages.

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Whelan, Allison. (2015). An Interdisciplinary Argument to Lower the Age of Consent for the Human Papillomavirus Vaccine. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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