Earlier this year we wrote about the issues that arise if parents can’t agree about their children having vaccinations. As Covid-19 vaccinations have been approved for children from age 12, the Family Court has recently had to deal with a dispute over whether or not a 12 year old should undergo his Covid-19 and winter flu vaccinations. The court had to balance the risks of having and not having the vaccinations as well as taking into account the child's own wishes and feelings. The court concluded that it was in the child's best interests to have the vaccinations.
In C (Looked After Child) (Covid-19 vaccination) the court had to decide whether or not C, who was 12, should undergo his Covid-19 and winter flu vaccinations. C, his father and the local authority all agreed he should be vaccinated. C’s mother objected. Although C was looked after by the local authority as part of a care order, the principles the court considered about the approach the court takes to vaccinations forming part of a national public health programme also apply to disputes between parents about vaccinations.
Deciding the case, the judge confirmed that:
- In cases concerning vaccinations which are part of national public health programmes, expert evidence would only be required if there was an identifiable, well-evidenced concern about whether or not a vaccine was suitable for a particular child or new peer-reviewed evidence indicating significant concerns for the efficacy and/or safety of a vaccine.
- The court can be satisfied that decisions to include vaccinations in national public health programmes are based on evidence that they are in the best interest of the children covered by the programmes. Vaccination programmes may be in the best interests of children even though the vaccine is not free from risk.
Why is the case important?
The case is the first reported case dealing with vaccination of a child with Covid-19 since the vaccine was approved for use in children. The case confirms that in dealing with whether or not a child should receive a vaccination which is part of a national programme, the court will generally proceed on the basis it does not need to have expert evidence to make a decision. Vaccinations forming part of a national vaccination programme are likely to be in a child’s best interests.
If the issues in this blog affect you, and you would like to discuss the legal position in relation to vaccinations of children in any more detail, please contact any of our specialist children lawyers.