Vaccination disputes around children and the COVID-19 vaccination

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Due to COVID-19 there has been an explosion in the debate surrounding vaccinations. It is a polarizing argument that has been rife across social networks and the wider media.

But what happens when, as parents with joint responsibility for a child, you are not in agreement about whether or not your child should receive a vaccination? Francesca Robinson from WSP Solicitors Family law team looks at what the outcome of this situation could be for parents.

What does the law say about vaccinating children?

Sometimes the Family Court is asked to make a decision in proceedings relating to children as to whether or not a child should be vaccinated. The issue of whether children should have the COVID-19 vaccine is something that the Court are likely to face.

In every application concerning children, the Court will always seek to do what is in the best interests of the child. This principle is central to both public law proceedings, where the local authority issue care proceedings in respect of a child, as well as private law proceedings.

In the recent case of Re H (A Child) (Parental Responsibility: Vaccination) 2020 EWCA Civ 664, a care order was in place in respect of a child and the Court concluded that the local authority could consent to the immunisation of the child, through using their powers under the Children Act 1989, if they believed it was in the child’s best interests and in spite of the parents’ objections. It would therefore be for the Court to assess whether in an individual case, the local authority could exercise this power.

What about cases specifically relating to COVID-19?

In a private law case, the Court concluded that it was in the children’s best interests to be given routine vaccinations in accordance with the NHS schedule. However, the Court were reluctant to order that the children should be given the COVID-19 vaccination. (M v H and P and T [2020] EWFC 93).

Judge MacDonald said this was because “given the very early stage reached with respect to the COVID-19 vaccination programme, it remains unclear at present whether and when children will receive the vaccination, which vaccine or vaccines they will receive in circumstances where a number of vaccines are likely to be approved and what the official guidance will be regarding the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine to children.”

However, despite this Judge MacDonald did conclude that it is “very difficult now 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 a child’s best interests”

What we can see from the above is that the Courts are not prepared to make orders concerning the COVID-19 vaccine at this moment in time. However, as the vaccination programme continues to be rolled out and becomes more established in England and Wales, it will be interesting to see whether the Courts rule that the COVID-19 vaccine is in the child’s best interests.

How can a Solicitor help me in this situation?

Our expert Family Law Solicitors are specialists when dealing with the law relating to children and matrimonial matters. They can provide the help, guidance and mediation you need to get to the bottom of whatever challenges you are facing to help make life, less complicated.

For more information please visit our Family Law web pages here. You can contact the team for help here or in the enquiry form on this page. Alternatively, you can call us on 01453 847200. 

Francesca Robinson


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