Now that the UK medicines regulator has approved the Pfizer covid vaccine as safe for 12-15 year olds, what happens if the UK vaccination programme extends to children and either the parents do not agree with each other on whether to vaccinate their child, or they do not consent to a local authority making that decision for them?
The family court recently heard two cases on this issue- one in the context of private law proceedings and one concerning care proceedings;
Here they are: Re H (A Child) (Parental Responsibility: Vaccination) EWCA Civ 664 & M v H (Private Law vaccination)  EWFC 93
Here is what they say:
- If only one person has parental responsibility, that person alone makes the decision whether to vaccinate their child.
- Where two or more have PR and they cannot agree, the court will decide. An application for a specific issue order needs to be made.
- The court will take into account what is in the child’s best interests, parental views and Government guidelines.
- The court is more likely than not to find that vaccinating the child is in the child’s best interests. All evidence presently available supports the Public Health England advice, which unequivocally recommends a range of vaccinations as being in the best interests of children and society as a whole.
- The court can take into account the strength of feeling of the parents, but this will not be determinative, unless the view has a real bearing on the child’s welfare.
- When exercising their parental responsibility, the parents must do so for the benefit of the child and not themselves.
- Vaccinating a child is not a breach of their Article 8 right to a private and family life.
- The courts are guided in private law proceedings by decisions made in public law cases.
- ‘ it is very difficult to foresee a situation in which a vaccination against Covid-19 approved for use in children would not be endorsed by the court as being in a child’s best interests, absent peer-reviewed research evidence indicating significant concern for the efficacy and/or safety of one or more of the Covid-19 vaccines or a well evidenced contra-indication specific to that subject child.’ MacDonald J-obiter.
It is also noteworthy that there are no reported cases (private or public proceedings) concerning a child where a request for vaccination has been refused by the court.
If you have a family case you need assistance with contact Mavis on 020 8885 7986 for an appointment with Aysen or another solicitor in the family team at Wilsons.