Any parent with parental responsibility for their child should be involved in decisions about that child’s medical care. One issue that sometimes comes before the court is when two parents can’t agree whether or not their child should receive a vaccination. Although we don’t yet have a vaccination for Covid-19, this is something that is being worked on and may be rolled out sometime next year. For some parents, this will come as a welcome relief, whilst others will be very concerned and will refuse to allow their child to be vaccinated.
If two parents disagree about whether their child should be vaccinated, then either can make an application to the court for a Specific Issue Order when a Judge will then decide whether that child should be vaccinated. Although there have not been any cases specifically on a Covid-19 vaccination yet, we can consider cases about other vaccinations to try and understand how a court may deal with this issue.
In the case of B (A Child: Immunisation)  EWFC 56, which involved a 5 year old child whose parents were separated and could not agree on further immunisations. Before the parents separated, the child had received all of the usual childhood vaccinations in accordance with Public Health guidance. In accordance with that guidance, the child was now overdue to receive 3 further immunisations. A guardian was appointed for the child in this case, and medical evidence was given by a jointly instructed expert. The medical expert acknowledged that no vaccination is 100% risk free, but that vaccination has greatly reduced the burden of infectious disease. The Judge stated that any order made by the court must be proportionate and in the child’s best interests. Having considered the case law, the judge determined that it was, in this case, in the child’s best interests to receive the vaccinations and made a Specific Issue Order to that effect.
In this case, the Court specifically stated that it was not making any commentary on whether or not immunisation is a good thing or a bad thing. The court was concerned with what was in the best interests of the child who was the subject of the application. This will always be the case.
If you and your former/partner are unable to agree on whether or not your child should receive the Covid-19 vaccination when it becomes available or if you have any specific issues relating to a child matter, contact us to speak with one of our family law specialists.