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What happens when parents disagree over the vaccination of their child?

View profile for Simon Immins
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What happens when parents disagree over the vaccination of their child?

Covid vaccination has now been rolled out to most children over 5 in this country.

Parents (or those with parental responsibility) of children who are eligible will now have to decide whether their child should have the jab, or not.

In this article, Family Partner Simon Immins looks at some points that may be helpful when considering what possible action to take.

Can parents refuse to have their child vaccinated against COVID-19?

If both parents agree that their child shouldn’t have a jab then; unless the children themselves are mature enough for their GP to consider that they can make their own decisions, the children won’t get the vaccine.

What if my partner and I don’t agree on whether our child should be vaccinated?

It is important to determine who has parental responsibility for any child when dealing with issues of health.  

If you were married at the time of your child’s birth, then you will both have parental responsibility.

If you were unmarried at this time, then it will depend on certain factors.

Find out more about parental responsibility here.

What can be done to solve the disagreement?

If parents cannot agree between themselves then the next best approach is to consider attending mediation to see if a mediator can help parents to come to an agreement.

Mediation is where an independent third party helps to resolve conflict or disagreement between disputing parties.

What if mediation doesn’t work?

If discussions or mediation are unsuccessful, then the Family Courts can be asked to make a decision on behalf of the child.

The process is started when one parent applies under the Children Act 1989 for an order under Section 8 of that Act.

There are two potential Orders that are relevant to this Issue:

Specific Issue Order

This order can be used by the Court to consider a specific question relating to the upbringing and the exercise of parental responsibility.

The order should be used when those with parental responsibility cannot agree on a unified course of action, such as whether or not a child should be vaccinated.

The order determines what shall happen.

When does a specific issue order expire?

A Specific Issue Order automatically ends when the issue has been resolved (or action taken) or when the child in questions turns 16 years old (unless specifically ordered to extend to when the child is 18).

Prohibited Steps Order

This Order prevents a parent  from  taking a certain action relating to their child, so prohibiting the parent from exercising their parental responsibility in a specific situation

For example, it may prevent a parent from stopping a vaccination from being administered to their child.

When does a prohibited steps order expire?

The order will normally expire when the child turns 16 years old. However, it can be for a set amount of time; or last until the child is 18 in exceptional circumstances.

What will the court take into account?

Whenever the court are invited to make a decision regarding a Section 8 Order, the child’s welfare is the paramount concern.

The Court are directed to have regard to the factors set out in Section 1 (3) of the Children Act (known as the welfare checklist). These are:

  • The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of his age and understanding);
  • The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs;
  • The likely effect on the child of any change in his circumstances;
  • The child’s age, sex, background and any characteristics of his which the court considers relevant;
  • Any harm which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering;
  • How capable each of the child’s parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting his needs;
  • The range of powers available to the court under this Act in the proceedings in question.

How have other cases panned out?

The court has considered the question of parents who can’t agree regarding vaccines in a case reported in 2020 M v H (Private Law Vaccination).

The conclusion of the court was that if scientific evidence shows that having the vaccine is in the best interest of the child, vaccination should occur

From this it is likely that the Courts will adopt this approach with disputes over the Covid Vaccine.

Therefore, if any parent seeks to object to their child having the Covid vaccine they are likely to find it difficult to persuade a court that the vaccine is not in the child’s best interest.

Free Initial Meeting

At Frettens, we offer a free initial appointment for all new clients.

We recognise the importance for clients of deciding whether they can work with a particular solicitor and to find out more about the process and likely outcome.

Our family lawyers offer positive, down to earth advice, and we hope that this initial meeting allows you the time to see this as well.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch, by calling us on 01202 499255 or filling out the form at the top of this page.