This 16-year-old wanted to get the COVID vaccine. He had to hide it from his parents
At 16, Nicolas Montero is old enough to get vaccinated on his own in some parts of the country. But he had to try to get the jabs without his parents knowing, since they're opposed to the vaccine.
LEILA FADEL, HOST:
Nicolas Montero, a 16-year-old from suburban Philadelphia, recently defied his parents. Lots of teenagers do that, pretty normal. But what makes his story newsworthy is how he defied them - by getting vaccinated against COVID-19. After his story appeared on member station WHYY in Philadelphia, our co-host, Steve Inskeep, called him up.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Where are you right now?
NICOLAS MONTERO: I'm in school.
INSKEEP: This is a free period?
INSKEEP: It'd be kind of funny if you were in the middle of science class and there was a teacher talking off in the background or something.
MONTERO: Yeah, that totally would.
INSKEEP: Mr. Montero spoke with us through a face mask.
What kind of discussions did you have in your family when the vaccine became available, I guess, at the end of 2020, beginning of 2021?
MONTERO: I mean, I discussed getting it with them when it became available to my age group. I just started bringing up facts about it. And they just didn't really want to hear it. They're very skeptic toward the vaccine.
INSKEEP: Did your mom and dad specifically give you instructions about a vaccine like, don't take it, we forbid you?
MONTERO: They did tell me that they would refuse to allow me to get the vaccine. They basically forbade it from me, yeah.
INSKEEP: Did you have a moment of doubting the vaccines yourself and wanting to investigate this?
MONTERO: I think everybody had a moment of doubting the vaccines. I mean, it is relatively new, especially when it first came out. And everybody was skeptical. But as we've seen, the vaccines are safe and effective. I know people that got vaccinated, so that really just quelled my fears.
INSKEEP: I'm sure there'd be a lot of teenagers that if their parents said, you may not get the vaccine, they would not get the vaccine. How did you come to a different choice?
MONTERO: Well, I believe that it's necessary for teenagers like me to able to make their own medical decisions, especially in the middle of a pandemic. I mean, I feel as though it was a commonsense choice for me. It's either get vaccinated or get sick.
INSKEEP: But of course, you were going to need some kind of parental consent form.
MONTERO: I did think that. But as I was researching, I found out that you can get vaccinated in Philadelphia without parent consent.
INSKEEP: Mr. Montero found out about a Philadelphia city regulation. The city allows kids over the age of 11 to be vaccinated without that parental consent form. It was a way for kids to get routine vaccinations for school even if they had very busy parents or troubled families. Mr. Montero sometimes stayed with his aunt in Philadelphia. So on his own, he got two shots.
MONTERO: It was a little bit nerve-wracking. I wasn't worried about getting the vaccine. I was worried about my parents finding out that I had been vaccinated, especially before my second dose. I was more concerned about them finding out with my second dose because then they could have stopped me from getting my last dose.
INSKEEP: He got through both doses before a relative told his parents.
What was the conversation like when you talked about it with them?
MONTERO: There wasn't really a conversation. They were just very quiet. They hadn't really said anything to me. It's actually kind of interesting because they found out while we were quarantining because they had all contracted COVID.
INSKEEP: And you didn't contract COVID?
MONTERO: I did not.
INSKEEP: In the very same household?
INSKEEP: So have they ever expressed their opinion of what you did?
MONTERO: They have expressed discontent over it. But at the end of the day, I feel like it's my decision. I'm 16 years old, going on 17. And I feel as though I am mature enough to make the decision for myself.
INSKEEP: What has that done to your relationship with him, if anything?
MONTERO: I want to say that it's - we've had our ups and downs over it. We're trying to work things out.
INSKEEP: Eventually, they stopped talking about it. And his parents, by the way, did not return our calls. But Mr. Montero has begun talking with others. He wrote an article in his school newspaper calling for Philadelphia's rule allowing underage vaccinations to become a statewide law. A bill to do that was introduced in the legislature, though it has yet to pass.
MONTERO: I mean, this legislation will give teenagers the ability to defend their health in the middle of a pandemic. I can't say it enough.
INSKEEP: I guess we should untangle the partisanship here. You're saying Democratic legislation is bottled up. It's a Republican-dominated Legislature.
MONTERO: Oh, 100%, 100%.
INSKEEP: It sounds like Democrats, at least some of them, are on your side for this legislation, but you feel Republicans are not. And yet, you're pointing out some of the ironies here - that Republicans have cast themselves as being on the side of choice when it comes to vaccines. They're typically talking about the choice not to do it, I suppose. You're arguing that you're making the case of having the choice of getting the vaccine, is that right?
INSKEEP: And how do you see this additional issue in your case of who gets to make the choice - of whether it should be the parent or guardian, the person who is responsible for somebody who's under 18, or whether it should be that person themselves?
MONTERO: I believe it should be the person themselves. I mean, it's our bodies. And I believe that in this day and age, teenagers are educated enough to make these decisions. I believe that we're capable of consulting with our medical providers to determine whether or not we should or shouldn't get a vaccine.
INSKEEP: Because you're campaigning for this law, you wrote an op-ed that was published in your school newspaper. And this is a line from that. You write, while I strongly disagree with my parents' decision not to let me get vaccinated, I sympathize with them. What do you mean you sympathize with them?
MONTERO: I sympathize with them from a political standpoint. I believe myself to be very politically minded, so I know what's going on in the country. And I can see that there has been misinformation campaigns done by celebrities and politicians that has caused people like my parents to believe the things that they believe. It just reinforces BS ideologies.
INSKEEP: Well, Mr. Montero, it's a pleasure talking with you. I'm going to let you get back to class.
MONTERO: Thank you so much. Thank you for the opportunity. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
A previous version of this story said Alabama has a law allowing teens 14 and older to consent to all of their own medical care, including inoculations. This story has been updated to reflect a recent change in Alabama law requiring parental consent for COVID-19 vaccines.