What happens if parents can’t agree on whether their child should be vaccinated?
On Tuesday 14th September, the Government announced that children aged 12 to 15 will now be offered a vaccination against Covid-19. Children will be offered the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine from 20th September, and most will receive it at school.
The announcement, which has been controversial amongst parents and a hot topic at the school gates, is part of the Government’s plan to curb the spread of coronavirus over the Autumn/Winter months and beyond. Ultimately, it’s up to a child’s parents to decide whether they will receive the Covid-19 vaccination, but some parents will not be able to agree on a decision between them, especially if they are separated.
What happens when parents can’t agree on vaccinating their children?
Over the last few months, parents have not only endured homeschooling but have had to get their heads around classroom ‘bubbles’ and their children having to self-isolate for periods of time. Now, parents face a new challenge: whether or not to get their children vaccinated against Covid-19.
Some parents will have unanimously agreed on their stance over the dinner table, whilst others may find themselves in a situation whereby their child’s other parent does not share their views on whether the child should be vaccinated or not.
In the first instance, parents should try to reach an agreement on the issue. Mediation can be a helpful option for parties to have a discussion about this issue, with the assistance of a trained mediator. It may be that once parties have had the opportunity to explain their views and listen to the other parents’ views that the child’s parents are able to reach an agreement about whether their child should be vaccinated against Covid-19 or not.
If an agreement cannot be reached, at mediation, or via correspondence through a family solicitor, then an application could be made to the court for a Specific Issue Order under section 8 of the Children Act 1989.
The court’s paramount concern is the welfare of the child, and the court will make a decision based on what they feel is in the child’s best interests. Previous case law suggests that a parent opposing a vaccination (of any type) is likely to have difficulty persuading a court not to order a child to be vaccinated unless there is medical evidence to support this, or the child is of an age where significant weight will be given to their wishes and feelings.
What if a child wants to be vaccinated but the parents disagree?
Children can overrule parents who do not want them to get the Covid jab. However, the vaccines minister, Nadhim Zahawi, has said in this situation, the school’s vaccination clinician will meet with both parties to see if they can reach a consensus, and if not, and the child is deemed competent, they will be able to receive the vaccination.
Do parents have to get their children vaccinated?
Immunisation of children is not compulsory in the UK, and this includes the Covid-19 vaccination.
The UK’s Chief Medical Officers are recommending vaccines for 12 to 15-year-olds on “public health grounds” as it will likely reduce transmission of Covid-19 (especially the Delta variant) in schools and the wider community. Vaccination of children against coronavirus not only protects them and their family/friends from the virus but helps reduce disruption to schools, which we saw earlier in the year.
It is up to parents to decide whether their children should be vaccinated against Covid-19 or any other disease or virus, however, families are being encouraged to follow advice from top medical professionals and to remember that the vast majority of children who have had the jabs worldwide have not suffered any serious side-effects.
Struggling to agree on your child’s vaccination? Our child law solicitors can help
If you and your child’s other parent cannot agree on whether to get your child vaccinated against Covid-19, our child law solicitors are here to help.
We can arrange a mediation session with one of our recommended family meditators, or, if mediation has not helped, our specialist team can advise you on making an application to the court of a Specific Issue Order.