The Los Angeles school district recently made the Covid vaccine mandatory for attendance. What’s special about the Covid vaccine is that it’s supposed to be given out not just to first graders (who are fairly easy to be forced into medical procedures) but also to kids aged 12-17 who are usually not compelled to undergo injections against their will.

Legally speaking, what can a parent of a 12-17 year old child do if their kid refuses to get vaccinated? Presume zero physical cooperation from the child in question.

This question is inspired by a friend of mine who’s child flat out refuses to get vaccinated for Covid despite the parents pleas and who’s very stressed about a possible vaccine mandate in local schools. If exact location matters, I’m interested in the legal situation in Washington.

I’ve found a lot of articles about small kids getting medical procedures against their will and a lot of articles about parents refusing to consent to their child getting vaccinated, but nothing about teenage children refusing to cooperate. How does the law envision this to be resolved?

  • You don’t really mean first graders are getting COVID vaccine at this point, do you? Sep 19, 2021 at 23:58
  • 2
    @George no but multiple other vaccines are mandatory for kids to start school and it’s common for parents to effectively hold their kid down while a doctor injects them. But these are 5-6 year old kids, not 15 year old teenagers. Sep 20, 2021 at 0:26

2 Answers 2


Parents have very wide latitude to make their children do what they are told, especially when the action is mandated by law. Vaccinations for school children are mandatory, and that could include covid vaccinations. A child is not eligible for an exemption on their own (only the parent can request a non-medical exemption). Force can be used on the child to get them to comply with a mandatory vaccination, per RCW 9A.16.100.

It is the policy of this state to protect children from assault and abuse and to encourage parents, teachers, and their authorized agents to use methods of correction and restraint of children that are not dangerous to the children. However, the physical discipline of a child is not unlawful when it is reasonable and moderate and is inflicted by a parent, teacher, or guardian for purposes of restraining or correcting the child. Any use of force on a child by any other person is unlawful unless it is reasonable and moderate and is authorized in advance by the child's parent or guardian for purposes of restraining or correcting the child.

However, that does not mean that the shot-provider is willing to tie the child down on parental say-so, so it is reasonably likely that a court order would be necessary.

If the child has been legally emancipated, they are the ones who would have to consent to a vaccination, so their parents can't make them get shots.


I found this regarding g Washington state

The Adolescent Behavioral Health Care Access Act enables parents/caregivers to bring a child for inpatient or outpatient treatment without requiring consent from the child, ages 13-17. The law includes elements introduced by the state Senate and House of Representatives, which originally titled the bill as HB 1874

It relates to mental health but might lead to more information.

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