What if you and your ex-partner disagree over vaccinating your child for Covid-19?

After months of uncertainty, the UK’s four chief medical officers have said that Covid-19 vaccinations can be offered to all 12-to-15-year-olds. Covid vaccines have already been given to clinically vulnerable children aged 12 to 15, or those living with others at high risk, at vaccine hubs around the country. The broader inoculation of 12- to 15-year-olds is expected to start imminently and run through the secondary school vaccination system.

The law of England and Wales is the same for coronavirus vaccines as for other immunisations. When a vaccine is offered to 12-to-15-year-olds, doctors require parental consent, or the child’s own consent, if they are deemed competent enough to provide it.

But what if you and your ex-partner disagree over vaccinating your child for Covid-19?

If both of you with parental responsibility disagree about whether your child(ren) should have the Covid-19 vaccine then the court would interject as the decision maker through the mechanism of a Specific Issue Order made under Section 8, Children Act 1989.

The recent case of M v H and Others (December 2020) provides a useful insight into how the courts may deal with any future applications from parents concerning the administration of the Covid vaccines to their children.

In M v H and Others, the father’s application was to ensure his children were vaccinated according to the NHS vaccination schedule but also, widen the scope of his application to include vaccines for future travel and vaccination against Covid-19. However, Justice Macdonald confined the issues to be determined to what is currently on the NHS vaccination schedule only.

The Father succeeded in his application against the mother for a Specific Issue Order under Section 8 of Part II of the Children Act 1989 to allow both children to be vaccinated according to the current NHS vaccination schedule, as it was deemed in the children’s best interests to do so.

Justice MacDonald did not give judgment on the Covid-19 vaccine and children per se, however he commented on the Court’s position in the event there is a dispute between parents and their children regarding the administration of the Covid-19 vaccine:

“It is very difficult 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” Justice MacDonald

Where someone aged 16 or 17 years consents to vaccination, a parent cannot override that consent. Young people who understand fully what is involved in the proposed procedure (referred to as ‘Gillick competent’) can also give consent, although ideally their parents will be involved. If a Gillick-competent child consents to treatment, a parent cannot override that consent. If the health professional giving the immunisation felt a child was not Gillick competent then the consent of someone with parental responsibility would be sought. If a person aged 16 or 17 years or a Gillick-competent child refuses treatment that refusal should be accepted.

If you would like any advice from our family team regarding these issues or any concerns regarding children or family matters then please contact Julie Keogh on 01258 488210 julie.keogh@blanchardsbailey.co.uk or Laura Martin on 01258 488216 laura.martin@blanchardsbailey.co.uk 

Blanchards Bailey

So, how can we help?

Whatever your requirements, our team is standing by.

Call us today on
01258 459361