What happens if parents disagree over the vaccination of their children?

As Covid vaccinations for 12- to 15-year-olds are set to start in weeks’ across UK,  it is likely that some children who are offered the vaccine may be faced with parental opposition who do not wish their children to be vaccinated.

So, what happens when there is a disagreement on whether a child should be vaccinated? Family Lawyer Simon Walker discusses the options for parents.

In the UK, the question as to whether a child is a child and subject to full parental control has been determined for some time and is often referred to as the ‘Gillick’ competence test. The question applied is whether the child has sufficient competence and understanding to act without a parent or guardian.

In these difficult days and with the rollout of the vaccine for children the question is that if a child is not able to consent to a vaccine, parental consent will be required. The legal responsibility of any parents is to safeguard and promote their child’s health, development, and welfare. But now we have differing scientific views on whether it is even appropriate to vaccinate children and if so at what age should we start.

This is a mind field for most parents but with those who have separated and have a duty to consult with one another in relation to any major decisions in a child’s life, both points of view are equally important. What happens when they cannot agree?

Allowing a court to decide whether to vaccinate a child

If parents disagree on whether to vaccinate their child, and their child is unable to provide their own consent, an application can be made to the court to allow the vaccination to proceed.

Before reaching a decision, the court will consider a range of factors, including

  • whether or not the vaccination is a reasonable decision for a parent to take
  • whether the vaccine is recommended by the Government
  • whether the decision to vaccinate is supported by science.

Such cases are likely to be tense, adding an additional pressure on family life and by bringing this before a court places a decision in the hands of the judge to make a medical decision for a child despite having no medical qualifications. By the very nature of medical intervention cases, only one party can “succeed” and the effect of having a decision imposed on a child against one parent’s wishes may fracture family relationships.

One alternative to Court is for parties to try and resolve the issue through mediation but if parties are so polarized in their view about vaccinations, mediation is unlikely to provide an outcome.

We in Mogers Drewett family team find ourselves helping clients who are facing such decision on a day-to-day basis. Neither party’s position is either wrong, or right, but what matters to the client’s is that their view is heard, and their point of view is put across in the most comprehensive and reasoned way.

Whether you are facing difficult question about your child’s medical treatment, schooling, how your child spends his or her time with each parent, or you are seeking to relocate to a different country we can help you reach a solution. Please get in touch with our family team for advice and support on how to reach a solution that works best for all involved. Please contact Simon Walker on 01935 813 691 or email Simon.Walker@mogersdrewett.com.

Mogers Drewett

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