Rainscourt Family Law Solicitors

Can I give my child the COVID-19 vaccine if the other parent does not agree?

Whilst in the UK, preparations are underway to commence voluntary vaccinations of all children aged 12 to 15, drug companies are swiftly progressing through clinical trials on children as young as 6 months of age. If the jab is approved for general use in children, there will disagreements between parents who are unable to agree on whether their children should receive the approved Covid vaccinations. When parents are unable to agree on what is best for their children, the Family Court can be asked to decide what is in the best interests of the child.

In December 2020 a case came before the Family Court, involving  a 4 year old and a 6 year old child and their parents.  The adults unable to agree on whether the children should receive the MMR vaccine in accordance with the NHS vaccination schedule. These injections would usually be administered at age 1 and 3.  The mother did not want the children to be vaccinated, and the father did.  The father therefore issued an application for an order about a specific issue, namely whether their children should be vaccinated against MMR.  In advance of the hearing, the issue was widened, to address whether the children should receive all of the vaccines currently included on the NHS vaccination schedule.  Both parents had parental responsibility for the children.  This meant that neither of them could make significant medical decisions about the children without the agreement of the other.  Consequently, in this situation, the court had to make the decision for them.

The court decided that the children would receive vaccination in accordance with the NHS vaccination schedule.  It held that it  

“will be unlikely to conclude that immunisation with the vaccines that are recommended for children by Public Health England and set out in the routine immunisation schedule is not in a child’s best interests absent (a) a credible development in medical science or new peer-reviewed research evidence indicating significant concern for the efficacy and/or safety of one or more of the vaccines that is the subject of the application and/or (b) a well evidenced medical contraindication specific to the child or children who are subject of the application.”

M v H (Private Law Vaccination) [2020] EWFC 93 (15 December 2020)

The court was not prepared to make an order for the children to be vaccinated against Covid.  However, it was made clear that this was due to the lack of information in December 2020 about whether children would be vaccinated and made very clear that it

“does not signal any doubt on the part of this court regarding the probity or efficacy of that vaccine. Rather, it reflects the fact that, given the very early stage reached with respect to the COVID-19 vaccination programme, it remains unclear at present whether and when children will receive the vaccination, which vaccine or vaccines they will receive in circumstances where a number of vaccines are likely to be approved and what the official guidance will be regarding the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine to children. As I make clear at the conclusion of this judgment, having regard to the principles that I reiterate below 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 contraindication specific to that subject child. However, given a degree of uncertainty that remains as to the precise position of children with respect to one or more of the COVID-19 vaccines consequent upon the dispute in this case having arisen at a point very early in the COVID-19 vaccination programme, I am satisfied it would be premature to determine the dispute that has arisen in this case regarding that vaccine.”

M v H (Private Law Vaccination) [2020] EWFC 93 (15 December 2020)

At the conclusion of the judgement, the court made the same point again, stating it is

very difficult now to foresee a case in which a vaccination approved for use in children, including vaccinations against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, would not be endorsed by the court as being in a child’s best interests, absent a credible development in medical science or peer-reviewed research evidence indicating significant concern for the efficacy and/or safety of the vaccine or a well evidenced medical contraindication specific to the subject child.”

M v H (Private Law Vaccination) [2020] EWFC 93 (15 December 2020)

The court has made clear in this decision that if the covid jab is authorised for general use in children, the likelihood of success of an application by a parent to prevent a child being vaccinated against Covid, where the other parent wishes to proceed with vaccination, are extremely limited. In the case of teenage children, other issues will be relevant, particularly the wishes and feelings of the child involved. 

https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWFC/HCJ/2020/93.html

Syringe and Vaccine
Needle syringe with a vaccine bottle. Credit: NIH
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