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Parental dispute over covid vaccine

My Ex-partner and I disagree on our child getting the Covid-19 Vaccine. What do I do?

Following the Governments recent announcement that 16 and 17 year olds will be offered the Covid vaccine, there may be some situations where separated parents disagree as to whether their child should receive this. 

Whilst those aged 16 and over are presumed to have capacity to consent to their own medical treatment, there can be exceptions to this and some vaccination centres have been seeking parental consent regardless. In addition, the vaccine may also be opened up to younger children in the future, so what do parents do if they disagree?

The responsibility for any decision in respect of medical treatment for a child falls to those with Parental Responsibility. This is usually the parents, as mothers automatically have Parental Responsibility and fathers will have this either by being married to the mother, being in a civil partnership with the mother or by being registered on the child’s birth certificate. However, there are other circumstances in which a person will obtain Parental Responsibility for a child and this can involve those who are not the child’s parents.

Taking the case to Court

If those with Parental Responsibility cannot agree on a decision in the child’s life, such as receiving a vaccination, then either party can apply to the Court for an Order which makes a decision on the issue. As with any issue in respect of children which appears before the Court, the welfare of the children is of primary concern. The Court must act in the child’s best interest by reference to the “Welfare Checklist” as set out in Section 1 of the Children Act 1989.

The matter was considered by the Courts as recently as last year, in the case of M v H (Private Law Vaccination) [2020] EWFC 93 which considered an application by a father for two children, aged 6 and 4, to have their routine childhood vaccines on the NHS vaccination schedule. The mother was opposed to the children being vaccinated.

The Judge at the hearing made clear the Courts approach to the issue. The Court considers that scientific evidence has established that it is generally in the best interests of healthy children to be vaccinated unless there was a credible development in medical science or new peer-reviewed research that indicated significant concern about the efficacy or safety of a vaccine. Alternatively, well-evidenced medical advice to the contrary that was specific to the child in question could be reason for the Court to decline.

In this case, the Court did not make a decision about the Covid-19 vaccine however it was stated that this was not due to any concerns regarding the vaccine but rather due to the vaccine being in very early stages. The Judge stated that provided the vaccine was approved for use in children, it is likely the Court would consider such vaccination in the best interests of the child.

This is consistent with previous cases concerning the vaccination of children and in a previous case it was discussed that, so far, there is no knowledge of a case in which an application for vaccination of a child has been refused.

If you find yourself involved in a dispute with a former partner about vaccination of your child, it may be that you need to refer the matter to Court for determination. Whilst it appears that an application to vaccinate is likely to succeed, it is important to consider each situation individually on the facts.

If you wish to discuss your situation with one of our dedicated Family Lawyers, they will be able to provide advice tailored to your individual circumstances.

Watson Thomas Solicitors have offices in Fleet, Guildford, Bracknell, Camberley, Farnborough and Woking.

Watson Thomas are a dedicated team of Family Lawyers who specialise in all aspects of family law. If you have any questions regarding parental disputes relating to the Covid vaccination please do get in touch.

Our staff can work from home and access all systems so even if all are required to self-isolate this will not affect the day-to-day running of your case. We can also hold appointments via telephone and video conferencing, as needs be, to ensure that your service is not interrupted.

Our expert family lawyers are happy to assist with issues relating to children and so if you have any questions please do not hesitate to get in touch. Please call us on 0800 488 0218.

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