Following the Prime Minister’s recent announcement about a coronavirus vaccine, family law professionals anticipate that disputes are likely to arise between parents as a result of it. Some parents have differing opinions on whether their child should be inoculated for standard vaccinations and we expect that the coronavirus vaccine will be no different.
As with all new medical treatment, there is likely to be some scepticism surrounding the vaccine. If parents cannot agree on whether their child should receive the vaccination, legal proceedings may be necessary.
A child’s best interests
In a recent reported case, the court held that if the administration of a vaccine is in the best interests of a particular child a parent can be overruled. Thus, standard vaccinations (e.g. MMR) will most likely be deemed necessary for the child’s health. The risks of not receiving the vaccine outweigh those of receiving it for most children. However, given the lack of familiarity of the Covid-19 vaccine, there is some degree of uncertainty. It is reported that the over 60s and other vulnerable people will take priority to receive the vaccine. Children with no underlying medical conditions will probably be at the bottom of the list. However, parents should have these discussions now in preparation for when the vaccine is available to all.
Parental Dispute – What can we do?
Where one parent wants their child to be immunised but the other parent does not, a court application can be made in order for the specific issue to be determined by a judge.
If Public Health England (PHE) support and recommend a vaccination then it is most likely that the court would decide that it is in the child’s best interests to receive it. Given the severity of coronavirus and the global impact it continues to have, one would assume the vaccination will be supported once it has gone through the final stages of the testing process.
However, each case is determined on its own facts and there may be additional issues which influence the outcome of any particular application.
Until we know more about the vaccine, the matter is a potential grey area. However, it is anticipated that in most cases it will be deemed to be in a child’s and the wider public’s best interests to immunise against Covid.
That being said, the best course of action for parents is to come to a private agreement and avoid seeking court intervention on the issue. Mediation or arbitration may also assist.
If you would like further information about parental disputes, a member of our family law team can be on hand to help. Call us on 0161 969 3131, or fill in our contact form and we will be in touch.