State Senator Says Tennessee Children Could Still Get COVID-19 Vaccine Without Parental Consent, but Only in Rare Circumstances


State Sen. Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield) on Friday accused the media of trying to drive a wedge between him and Tennessee Department of Health (TDOH) Commissioner Lisa Piercey when it comes to giving the COVID-19 vaccine to children.

Roberts co-chairs the legislature’s Joint Government Operations Committee. He voiced concerns this week about state officials administering the vaccine to children without parental consent. Roberts said Thursday that he and Piercey agreed that administering the COVID-19 vaccine to children — without parental consent — violates TDOH policy.

But on Friday The Tennessean published an article and reported that Piercey, “in rare circumstances,” will provide the vaccine to minors, even without parental consent.

“This statement is a contradiction to an announcement made this week by conservative lawmakers who said Piercey agreed in a private meeting to stop this practice,” The Tennessean reported.

Roberts told The Tennessee Star on Friday that he and Piercey concur with one another on this issue, despite how certain media outlets portray the situation.

“She and I spoke yesterday just to catch up on everything and make sure we were on the same page. We were in touch again this morning, although I have not seen the specific comments [Piercey made at a press conference Friday],” Roberts told The Tennessee Star Friday.

“I was speaking in principle on Wednesday fully aware that there will be outlier situations where parental consent [for the COVID-19 vaccine] is not available. I have not thus far seen any contradiction whatsoever in what she has said and what I have said.”

The Star asked Roberts what he means by “outlier situations.”

“What happens if you have a 17-year-old who is homeless? You can’t get parental consent. What if you have a 16-year-old whose parents are incarcerated? They have homeless kids at these schools and you can’t get parental consent,” Roberts said.

“[There are] some what ifs that are total outlier situations, and of course they will deal with those on a case by case basis. Speaking in principle is not contradicted by the fact that there will be outlier situations.”

Roberts said Tennessee “has more homeless kids than you can imagine,” although he did not cite specific numbers.

“This is one of those issues that each time you hear it you learn something new,” Roberts said.

“A new piece of the puzzle snaps into place. And I get that.”

With that said, Roberts said other media outlets should exercise more caution in how and what they report.

“What I see is the Nashville media realizing they got it wrong [previously],” Roberts said.

“Now they are trying to fix the situation by saying it’s breaking news [what they’re reporting today].”

‘Parents Are the Best Decision Makers’

Piercey addressed the matter of vaccinating children at a Friday press conference.

“There was a perception that we were marketing to children, and that totally was against our view about the importance of parental authority,” Piercey said.

“We strongly believe that parents are the best decision makers when it comes to medical decisions for their children. We took a pause to look at our marketing materials and to look at our flyers and postcards and all of the other public-facing materials to make sure they were appropriately directed at parents.”

Piercey also said state legislators who thought the TDOH had targeted children were only representing the interests of their constituents.

As of Friday, the TDOH’s policy, according to its website, still appeared to allow treatment of 14-year-olds without parental consent. This, according to Tennessee’s Mature Minor Doctrine.  The doctrine cites a “Rule of Sevens” that states the following:

• Under the age of seven there is no capacity, and the physician must have parental consent to treat (unless a statutory exception applies).

• Between the ages of seven and 14, there is a rebuttable presumption that there is no capacity, and a physician generally should get parental consent before treating (unless a statutory exception applies).

• Between the ages of 14 and 18, there is a rebuttable presumption of capacity, and the physician may treat without parental consent unless the physician believes that the minor is not sufficiently mature to make his or her own health care decisions.

Speaking of the Mature Minor Doctrine, Roberts said a corporate pharmacy could legally administer the COVID-19 vaccine to a child who “appears smart, alert, and is not high on drugs.”

“Fundamentally, the issue of whether children should get any vaccine without parental consent is a matter of legislative consideration that I am sure will be considered in January,” Roberts said

“And the bill will cover everyone. It wouldn’t be a discussion of just state employees. It will [also] be about what Walgreens or Walmart can do.”

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]








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3 Thoughts to “State Senator Says Tennessee Children Could Still Get COVID-19 Vaccine Without Parental Consent, but Only in Rare Circumstances”

  1. 83ragtop50

    Gag! Government at its worst trying to cover its in a show of fake compassion. Most kids have legal guardians even if they are in some type of government or NGO facility. When one speaks of the “homeless” there is this big cloud of uncertainty that surrounds every issue. I do not want the schools or some quack deciding what kids do and do not get the shot. As David Blackwell stated below, just let them get the sniffles.

  2. Cannoneer2

    I’ll say again what I said yesterday. Stick to moving bean counters around, or selling bicycles. Leave medicine and science to the professionals!

  3. David Blackwell RN, BSN, CCM

    Unreal. Just let the kid get the sniffles will you?