Disputes around whether parents have the right to prevent their children having the MMR vaccine have been helpful in establishing this.
In case you were wondering prior to inoculating your children against COVID-19 there is quite a substantial volume of Public and Private case law indicating where English law stands on the vaccination of children.
In the case of, Re H (A Child) (Parental Responsibility: Vaccination)  EWCA Civ 664 Lady Justice King delivering the lead judgment from the Court of Appeal: “It cannot be doubted that it is both reasonable and responsible parental behaviour to arrange for a child to be vaccinated in accordance with the Public Health Guideline, but there is at present no legal requirement for a child to be vaccinated;
“Although vaccinations are not compulsory, scientific evidence now establishes that it is generally in the best interests of otherwise healthy children to be vaccinated;
“Available evidence supports the Public Health England advice that vaccinations are in the best interests of children and society as a whole;
“The evidence with respect to MMR vaccinations overwhelmingly identifies the benefits to children;
“Subject to any credible development in medical science or peer reviewed research to the opposite effect (along with the instruction of a jointly instructed expert), the proper approach to be taken by a court where there is a disagreement as to whether the child should be vaccinated is that the benefit in vaccinating a child in accordance with Public Health England guidance can be taken to outweigh the long-recognised and identified side effects;
“Whilst parental views must always be taken into account, the matter is not to be determined by the strength of the parental views unless the view has a real bearing on the child’s welfare; and,
“Whilst the Court did not reach a definitive conclusion on whether, in private law proceedings, a dispute between the holders of parental responsibility over childhood vaccinations should require judicial adjudication, it stated, albeit strictly obiter, that it would be difficult to foresee a case in which a vaccination approved for use in children, including vaccinations against COVID-19, would not be endorsed as being in a child’s best interests, absent a credible development in medical science or peer-reviewed research evidence questioning the safety and/or efficacy of the vaccination or a well evidenced contraindication specific to the child in question.”
This judgment – along with several others – provides a fair indication of how the courts might respond to applications to decline a COVID-19 vaccination for children.
But the law evolves, and if it does both I and my colleagues in the Litigation and the firm’s Forming Families team will read the judgements with interest.
Our Family lawyers, Litigation and forming Families teams have the knowledge and experience to guide you through these challenging times and have rankings in both Chambers & Partners and the Legal 500 for their expertise.
If you are affected by similar issues or would like to have a related discussion in confidence, please call me, Louise Barretto, on 020 7091 2869 or email, firstname.lastname@example.org
The above is accurate as at 2nd March 2021. The information above may be subject to change during these ever-changing times.
The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case by case basis.