In the midst of the Coronavirus Pandemic, the current vaccination programme rolled out by the UK Government is very much a point for debate in terms of whether people opt to have the Vaccine or not. But what happens if parents disagree on whether to vaccinate their children? In this article we will consider this, using the case of EWCA Civ 664 and M v H (Private law vaccination)  EWFC 93.
The starting point for the court is who has Parental Responsibility for the child, who has the rights, duties, responsibilities, and authority for that child to be able to make the decision on their behalf.
If one person holds PR, then they can act alone in making the decision as to whether the child should be vaccinated. However, if it is two parents (or more) that cannot agree, and have exhausted all dispute resolution routes, then it would have to be referred to court as neither parent would have authority over the other. Either parent would need to make a section 8 application to the court for a specific issue order. The court would then consider the application following section 8 criteria and what is in the best interest of the child.
The case of M v H (Private law vaccinations)  EWFC 93 was heard before the court in December 2020. The father’s application was for a specific issue order on the basis that it was in the best interests of the two children (aged 4 and 6) to receive specific vaccinations. The mother was opposed to the vaccinations on the basis of information she had gathered online and the opinion of a paediatrician and nephrologist. The mother argued that an order requiring the children to be vaccinated would amount to a breach of the children’s right to private and family life under Article 4 of the European Convention of Human Rights.
The outcome of this case was that the Judge did grant a specific issue order permitting the children to receive vaccinations in accordance with the normal NHS schedule. The judge emphasised that in the consideration of such matters the child’s best interests are the court’s paramount consideration and the instruction of an expert would not be necessary where vaccinations had been approved and recommended by the NHS and Public Health England.
The Judge declined to make a specific issue order with regard to vaccinating the children against Covid-19 as there is not yet any formal guidance as to whether children should be vaccinated, and emphasised that it is difficult to forsee 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 interest, unless there was specific evidence to suggest concern or safety for a specific child.
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