I am being asked more and more frequently what the legal position is with regard to vaccinating minor children, particularly in instances where their parents cannot agree.
The Courts will most likely find in favour of children having the Covid-19 vaccine in instances where the parents disagree, as vaccination is in the child’s “best interests”.
It is up to adults to decide whether or not they wish to be vaccinated, as they are able to assess the risks against the benefits and make a decision for themselves. However, when it comes to medical decisions involving children a Court judgement is sometimes required, particularly in cases where the parents strongly disagree on the right course of action.
Where there are two parents who share parental responsibility, they both have an equal say in major decisions affecting that child. Where parents who both hold parental responsibility cannot decide on whether their child should receive a vaccination, the parent advocating vaccination will need to apply to the Family Court under the Children Act.
Whilst the views of the parents regarding immunisation must be taken into account, their views are not decisive, and generally the law views vaccinations as being in the best interests of children provided medical evidence recommends this. It is also important to note that the protection of children from the consequence of a disease is sufficiently important to justify the limitation of the parent’s fundamental human right.
The recent announcement that 12–15-year-olds will be offered a Covid-19 vaccination will no doubt result in the Court being approached by parents who cannot agree. In such cases, it is likely the Court will find that it is in the child’s best interests to receive that vaccination and grant a specific issue order in those cases.
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The above is accurate as at 23 September 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.