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Can I be forced to vaccinate my child?

11 Jun 2021

The Pfizer/BioNTech jab for Covid 19 has now been approved for 12-15 year olds.  Whilst we are yet to see a mass rollout to children in that age group, parents need to start thinking now about whether to permit their children to be vaccinated.

Whether a child should be vaccinated or not is down to those with parental responsibility, usually the parents, or the court as a last resort.

What is parental responsibility?

Parental responsibility means all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority that a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property by law.

Parental responsibility conveys various decision making powers, some of which can be taken independently by anyone with parental responsibility, and some which require the agreement of all those with parental responsibility.

Medical treatment, including whether a child should be vaccinated, fall into the latter category, and require the agreement of both parents.

What if my ex and I can’t agree?

If you and your co-parent cannot agree whether your child should be vaccinated, it may be helpful to consider speaking with an independent third party, such as a counsellor or a mediator to see whether consensus can be reached.

If attempts to settle the matter fail, then either parent can make an application to court for an order known as a ‘Specific Issue Order’.  The court will consider what is in the child’s best interests.

Case law has demonstrated that in the case of the standard program of childhood vaccinations, the court will likely order that the child be vaccinated, as generally it is in every child’s interest to be protected.

There are of course individual circumstances which the court will consider, but the court’s overarching view is that the recommended vaccination scheme has been tried and tested over many years, with contraindications few and far between.

Clearly the Covid 19 vaccines do not have that same data set behind them, and this issue is likely to be a live one for the courts in the near future.

How we can help

If you wish to discuss issues arising from this article then please contact the family law team.