COVID-19 vaccinations - Can my 12-year old receive the jab against my wishes?
The last 18 months has been one of the most challenging experiences, with the whole world suffering from COVID-19 and the affects this has had on everyday life. The wonderful work of scientists has allowed some form of normality to return following the successful vaccination program that has been rolled out, initially to those most vulnerable and then all adults. But with the new Omicron variant now changing things once more, what does this mean for vaccinations moving forward?
On 12 September 2021 it was reported nationally that children aged 12-15 years of age would be offered the COVID-19 vaccine. Consideration of the vaccine being given to younger children is still ongoing. So what is the position if both parents cannot agree on whether their child should be vaccinated, and what is the position if the Local Authority wish to vaccinate your child and one or both parents do not agree?
The later position was recently dealt with by the High Court of Justice, Family Division, in the case of Re C (Looked After Child) (Covid-19 Vaccinations)  EWHC 2993 (Fam). The case involved a 12 year old child who was subject to a Care Order in favour of the Local Authority that had been made in 2015. The child wished to have the COVID-19 vaccination and the winter flu vaccination, which the child's mother was strongly opposed to. The Local Authority made an application to Court for the matter to be determined. The Local Authority felt that it was in the child's best interests to have the vaccinations and wanted it to be determined as to whether under section 33 of the Children Act 1989 the Local Authority could exercise its parental responsibility by arranging for and consenting to the two vaccinations for the child; regardless of the mother's wishes.
Mr Justice Poole in determining the matter, considered and applied the Court of Appeal decision in Re H(Parental Responsibility: Vaccinations)  EWCA Civ 664. It was determined that the principles in Re H applied to the COVID-19 and winter flu vaccination programmes. In the absence of contraindications for a particular child, there was no reason not to allow the Local Authority to exercise their powers to arrange and facilitate both vaccinations. The Court also stated that it was not appropriate for the Court to embark on an investigation of the merits of whether national programmes of COVID-19 and winter flu vaccination of children are justified as being generally in the best interests of children in those age ranges. Furthermore, the Court determined that the mere assertion that a vaccine is unsafe, however strongly expressed, is not sufficient for the Court to require expert evidence to assist the Court. The Court stated that it relies upon the published guidance from the government and public bodies, specifically from the UK Health Security Agency, a new body created in 2021 which has replaced Public Health England, in helping to determine the issue.
The matter was also considered in the private law dispute of MvH and PT EWFC 93, where Mr Justice MacDonald stated at point 4 of his judgement that he believes ‘it is very difficult to foresee a situation in which a vaccination against COVID-19 approved for use in children would not be endorsed by the Court as being in the child`s best interests, absent peer-reviewed research evidence indicating significant concerns for the efficacy and/or safety of one or more of the COVID-19 vaccines or a well evidence contraindication specific to that specific subject child’.
What is Contraindiction?
- a condition or circumstance that suggests or indicates
that a particular technique or drug should not be used in the case in question.
Recent case law therefore shows that unless there are individual specific circumstances that would mean that the vaccine could provide that particular child with contraindications were they to have it, then ultimately, the Court will follow the guidance of the government and public bodies to allow the vaccination of the subject child(ren) to take place.
Charley Kelly, Family Law Solicitor
Lawson West Solicitors, Leicester
If you are wondering if you can avoid vaccinating your teenage child, perhaps against the wishes of your partner, family or Local Authority, think again...contact us and we can advise you accordingly for your own situation. Contact Us here.View all