Vaccinating children – what if separated parents disagree?

Wake Smith Solicitors 15 June 2021

The UK’s Covid-19 vaccine roll out for children could start from as early as this summer.

Several countries have already given emergency approval to the use of the Pfizer vaccine for children aged 12-15.

Wake Smith’s collaborative lawyer Deborah Marsh looks at the position when parents disagree on vaccinating their children and a recent applicable case.

“Parental Responsibility is defined in the Children Act 1989 as ‘all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property’.

“This generally allows all persons with parental responsibility to make day-to-day decisions for their child without needing to consult the other parent on issues such as meals, activities, clothing.

“However, certain decisions need to be made by consulting all other persons with parental responsibility such as education and schooling decisions and, whether a child should, or should not, receive medical treatment.

“We will see some parents have opposing views on the Covid vaccine. As a vaccine is medical treatment, both parents must consult and discuss the vaccination and raise any concerns so the matter can be resolved.

“If an amicable decision cannot be reached, the dispute can be resolved through an application for a Specific Issue Order (section 8 of the Children Act 1989), requiring the family court to determine the issue in dispute.

“When considering the application, the court always treats the child’s welfare as the paramount consideration. They look at the needs of the child, age, sex, background of the child, any harm the child has suffered, or is at risk of suffering, among other factors found within the welfare checklist under the Act.”

Recent case law about children and vaccinations

Deborah added: “The Courts have shown in recent cases that they are likely to rule children should be vaccinated in-line with NHS vaccination schedules, and that administering a child with a vaccine that is recommended by Public Health England, is in their best interests.”

In M v H (private law vaccination) 2020, the father’s application initially concerned the MMR vaccine, but, as the case progressed the court considered other childhood vaccinations included on the NHS vaccination schedule and the Covid-19 vaccine.

The judge declined to make this decision as the Covid-19 vaccine was then not included on the NHS childhood vaccination schedule. The Judge did, however, state as long as the Covid-19 vaccination is approved for use in children, then the Family Courts would likely consider it to be in a child’s best interest.

To talk to an experienced family lawyer about your concerns please arrange an appointment with Wake Smith’s family and collaborative lawyer Deborah Marsh on 0114 266 6660 or at [email protected] 

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