Suit Questions Constitutionality of D.C. Vaccination Law

The District of Columbia Department of Health, its director, Laquandra S. Nesbitt, and Muriel Bowser, the mayor of D.C., were sued by plaintiff Joshua A. Mazer (both individually and on behalf of his minor child) over allegations that a law passed in D.C. in 2020 regarding the vaccination of minors is unconstitutional. The suit, which was filed in the District of Columbia on July 2, seeks both declaratory and injunctive relief.

In 2020, the D.C. Council passed a law, the “Minor Consent for Vaccinations Amendment Act of 2020,” that allows “a child, 11 years of age or older, to receive vaccinations without their parent’s consent or knowledge.” The complaint said the law is not limited to D.C. residents, as any child can seek a vaccination as long as the medical provider is located in D.C.

The plaintiff referred to this law as a “deceitful scheme,” and claims it violates the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986. This Act, the plaintiffs argued, preempts the 2020 D.C. law because it establishes requirements for obtaining informed consent for childhood vaccinations. The Act also purportedly mandates medical providers to provide parents with a vaccine information statement (VIS) prior to vaccinating any children. Mazer argued that the D.C. law is improper since it “completely does away with the requirement that the VIS be given to the child’s parents.” He argued that since the D.C. Council is “not permitted to override the will of Congress,” the law cannot be implemented.

The plaintiff’s minor daughter, according to the complaint, traveled to D.C. to obtain a vaccination, prompting the plaintiff to file suit questioning the constitutionality of the 2020 D.C. Law.

The plaintiff’s daughter has had reactions to vaccinations in the past, the complaint said. A tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis-containing vaccine she was administered at age 5 elicited a reaction that required immediate medical treatment. Since this reaction, the plaintiff has withheld his daughter from receiving numerous vaccines, citing religious reasons. The VIS for the recent vaccine she was attempting to receive in D.C. warned that those who experienced an allergic reaction to a tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis-containing vaccination should inform their vaccine provider immediately. The plaintiff contended that most pre-teens or teenagers “would likely not know if he or she experienced” any of the conditions from vaccines warned against in the VIS.

The plaintiff’s daughter went to D.C. to get such a vaccine she needed to work at a summer camp. The pediatric clinic she visited reportedly failed to ask about her medical history or show her a VIS or any literature about vaccines and tried to convince her otherwise when she changed her mind and attempted to leave. Ultimately, she left without receiving the vaccines. Mazer maintained that the actions of the staff only occurred due to the 2020 D.C. Law.

Mazer additionally explained that in the event that his daughter had received the vaccinations, he would not have known about them and his ability to help her if she had had a reaction would have been hindered severely.

Ultimately, Mazer is alleging deprivation of plaintiff’s fundamental right to parent and plaintiff’s Fifth Amendment right to procedural due process, violation of plaintiff’s substantive due process rights and First Amendment rights with respect to religious beliefs, and violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. He is seeking a declaration that the law is unconstitutional, violates his federal rights, and is preempted by the 1986 Federal Act. He is also seeking litigation costs and any other relief deemed necessary and proper.

The plaintiff is represented by the Garza Law Firm as well as Siri & Glimstad LLP and Chris Wiest Law.