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Consent for Immunizations

All states require that children be immunized for certain diseases before entering school. Since school attendance is mandatory, the law makes immunization mandatory. Philosophically, it is absurd to speak of informed consent to a mandatory treatment. Nonetheless, physicians are expected to obtain informed consent for these immunizations. There is only one acceptable way to obtain this consent: using the federally promulgated vaccine information pamphlets.[209] These are often referred to as the important information forms because of their introductory header. They are available from the vaccine distributors, state health departments, and the CDC. The forms have a section to document the consent, including the manufacturer and lot number for the biological, and the date of the immunization. While not part of the mandatory information, it is also useful to record the name of the person administering the immunization.

It is imperative that every patient or person authorizing the immunization (parent or guardian) be given the information in the federal form and a copy to keep. The federal information form should be incorporated into the child's medical record. The consent can be further documented in a more conventional immunization record such as those provided by the World Health Organization. These formal immunization records are useful to show that the child's immunization status is current.

208Prince v. Massachusetts. 321 U.S. 158 (1944).

[209]Goldsmith MF: Vaccine information pamphlets here but some physicians react strongly. JAMA 1992 Apr 15; 267:2005-7.

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