What can I do if my partner objects to our child being vaccinated?

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With the COVID-19 vaccine being rolled out across the UK, there are lingering concerns about the long-term impact and side effects of the vaccine, leading some people to express reluctance about being vaccinated or letting their children be vaccinated. UK law allows parents to decide whether their children should be vaccinated, but what happens when parents or those with parental responsibility disagree on this issue?

What happens when parents disagree about the COVID-19 vaccine?

The Green Book outlines vaccination procedure for healthcare professionals and details what should happen where parents disagree:

“although consent of one person with parental responsibility for a child is usually sufficient, if one parent agrees to immunisation but the other disagrees, the immunisation should not be carried out unless both parents can agree to the immunisation or there is a specific court approval that the immunisation is in the best interests of the child”.

As a result, if you feel strongly about your child being vaccinated but cannot get their other parent to agree, you may have to take Court action.

Vaccines and Court Orders

Where parents disagree about whether their child should be vaccinated, either parent may apply to the Court under section 8 of the Children Act 1989 for a specific issue order. It will then be the job of the Court to decide how to resolve the dispute. As always with disputes involving children, the child’s overall welfare will be of paramount concern.

Case Examples

Whilst the COVID-19 vaccine is relatively new, disagreements between parents about whether to vaccinate their children are not.

In M v H (Private Law Vaccination) [2020] EWFC 93, the ambit of the case widened beyond the MMR vaccine to include other childhood vaccines. The Judge granted a specific issue order for the children in question to be vaccinated in accordance with the NHS schedule despite the mother’s objection following extensive personal research. It was deemed to be in the best interests of the children.

In F v F [2013] EWHC 2683 (Fam), the parents were in disagreement about whether their two children should have the MMR vaccination. The children in this case, aged 11 and 15, objected to receiving the vaccination. Both parents had previously agreed that the children would not receive the vaccine, following reports of a connection with autism. However, this report was later retracted and the father became concerned that the children had not been vaccinated. The Cafcass Officer was concerned that the children did not fully appreciate all the risks and benefits, asking the Court to act with caution when taking into account their feelings and wishes. The Court decided on balance that it was better for the children to be vaccinated and made a declaration to this end.