Vaccination – a no brainer or another area of parental discourse?

Most people have fairly fixed views about whether or not they want the vaccine, but are they as sure about whether their children should have it?

There have been divided opinions over vaccines for some time, with some believing that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine had links to autism in children.

However, are opinions quite as divided when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine?

Many feel that the situation with COVID has moved so quickly and quite understandably the speed at which the government guidelines change does not fill everyone with the greatest of confidence.

Others feel that having the vaccine is quite simply a no brainer.

So, what does the law say?

Whilst those over 16 can choose for themselves whether they have the vaccine, the decision for those under 16 rests with the parents, or those with what is known as ’parental responsibility’.

What is parental responsibility?

Parental responsibility is usually held by both parents or their guardians and refers to “all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property.”

When does an issue arise?

As more often than not, more than one person holds parental responsibility then there is room for disagreement for what is right for the child(ren), and this is particularly so when parents are separated and may often have polarised views.

What can you do if agreement is not reached?

If an agreement cannot be reached between you, as parents, then you will probably need some legal advice as a first port of call. It is hopefully something that can be agreed bilaterally or through solicitors.

If not, then mediation may help.

Do you need to go to court?

This would be a last resort but if agreement cannot be reached then, you may well have to. You can make what is a called a ’Specific Issue Order’, under section 8 of the Children Act 1989. There is no legal requirement in England and Wales for children to be vaccinated and the court will always consider what is in the child(ren)’s best interests. As the COVID-19 vaccination is now approved for use in children who are 12 and over, it is unlikely that the court would not grant such an application for children of that age.

The court will, of course, approach each case on its own merits but as a “rule of thumb” they will likely grant the application for the vaccination, as it is scientifically established that it is generally in the best interests of healthy children to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Disclaimer: This document does not present a complete or comprehensive statement of the law, nor does it constitute legal advice. It is intended only to highlight issues that may be of interest to clients of BLM. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in any particular case.

Who to contact

Grainne
Fahy

Partner , London

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