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Covid 19 vaccinations for children

View profile for Jennifer Allen
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What to do if you cannot agree with the child's other parent

Covid 19 vaccinations for children is an area for potential conflict between separating or separated parents. As yet, there haven’t been any reported Private Law cases dealing specifically with a dispute between parents over whether or not their child should be given the Covid 19 vaccine. However, there have been other legal cases that highlight factors Courts consider when addressing the childhood vaccination issue.

Child being vaccinated

 

The law when parents disagree on their child’s vaccinations

There have been a couple of recently reported cases which demonstrates the courts approach to other childhood vaccines, where disputes have arisen. Here are the links if you are interested in reading the cases:

Re H (A Child) (Parental Responsibility : Vaccination) [2020] EWCA Civ 664 and

M v H (Private Law Vaccinations) [2020] EWFC 93

If the courts took a similar view to the Covid 19 vaccine, it is likely that a vaccination against Coronavirus, that has been approved for the use on children by the Chief Medical Officer's recommendations, would be endorsed by the Court as being in a child's best interests. This would be subject to the absence of any evidence to the contrary, or evidence of medical concerns or underlying health conditions that could impact upon the appropriateness of a vaccine to that child.

How is consent being obtained?

The NHS has stated that most children between 12 and 15 will be vaccinated at school and parents or those with Parental Responsibility will be offered information about the vaccine in advance and asked to provide consent.

Most parents will be able to make a joint decision in consultation with their child or children. However, it is inevitable where parents are separated, or where guardians have differences in opinions, this may cause an issue.

When parental separation and disputes regarding the Covid vaccine have been identified, it is the School Age Immunisation Service (SAIS) team’s duty to deal with any questions parents or children may have.  It is also their decision whether a child is ‘Gillick competent’ and therefore has the mental capacity to consent to the vaccine, even if their parents do not give their consent.

Ultimately, if parents or guardians cannot agree on the issue between themselves or with the help of a neutral third party (or in mediation), then there may be no other option but to go to Court and a Judge to decide what is best for their child or children by way of a Specific Issue Order. Cases will be considered on a case-by-case basis and, an individual child’s circumstances, medical background and any medical evidence in support, would be taken into account.

Parents and guardians are referred to the following resources:

www.government.uk/government/publication/covid-19-vaccination-resources-for-schools/covid-19-vaccination-programme-for-children-and-young-people-guidance-for-schools

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/coronavirus-vaccine-for-children-aged-12-to-15/

Advice for Separating Parents

For those parents who do not agree on the issue of vaccinating their children, our Family Team would encourage them to try to keep communication between themselves as healthy as possible in order to protect the co-parenting relationship and shield children from becoming involved in potentially hostile, emotional or complicated issues. Sharing concerns in an open way at the outset may avoid making the issue of vaccination an additional battle that can cause an increase in tension and upset to the family.

If you have any concerns or wish to discuss matters, please do not hesitate to contact our Family Team, who would be pleased to assist you.

 

 

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