With the COVID-19 vaccine being quickly rolled out across the UK, there are concerns among some about the long-term impact and side effects of the vaccine. As a result, some people are reluctant to get the vaccine themselves or let their children be vaccinated. Vaccines Minister, Nadhim Zahawi, has confirmed that children over 12 who are at higher risk of getting ill if they catch Covid will be offered the jab. But the vast majority of children in the UK, who are low risk, will not be offered the vaccine for now.
The law in the UK allows parents to decide whether their children should be vaccinated, but what happens when parents or those with parental responsibility disagree? Here, we look at what happens if one parent objects to a child being vaccinated.
Disputes between parents are difficult, but fortunately, the law is reasonably clear. The Green Book Public Health England online guidance outlines vaccination procedure for healthcare professionals and details what should happen where parents disagree. It says:
"Although consent of one person with parental responsibility for a child is usually sufficient, if one parent agrees to immunisation but the other disagrees, the immunisation should not be carried out unless both parents can agree to the immunisation or there is a specific court approval that the immunisation is in the best interests of the child".
So, if you feel strongly about your child being vaccinated but cannot get their other parent to agree, you may have to take court action.
Where two parents disagree about whether their child should be vaccinated, either parent may apply to the court under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989 for a Specific Issue Order. It will then be the job of the court to decide how to resolve the dispute. As always, with disputes involving children, the child's overall welfare will be of paramount concern.
While the COVID-19 vaccine is relatively new, disagreements between parents about whether to vaccinate their children are not.
In F v F  EWHC 2683 (Fam), the parents were in disagreement about whether their two children should have the MMR vaccination. The children in this case, aged 11 and 15, objected to receiving the vaccination. Both parents had previously agreed that the children would not be vaccinated after reports of a connection with autism. However, this report was later retracted, and the father became concerned that the children had not been vaccinated. The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (‘Cafcass’) Officer was concerned that the children did not fully appreciate all the risks and benefits, asking the court to act with caution when taking into account their wishes and feelings. The court decided that on balance, it was better for the children to be vaccinated, and made a declaration to this end.
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The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.