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To vaccinate, or not to vaccinate: Issues for the parents of 2021

There are many decisions which arise in a child’s life that can cause conflict between separated parents; what name they should be known by, whether they should be raised vegan, where or how they should be educate, what religion they follow. However, since the beginning of the global pandemic in 2020, we should have foreseen the emergence of a new potential for dispute: vaccinations.

This is now a live issue in the UK, and many other nations worldwide. However, the UK in particular is at an interesting crossroads where the JCVI are not recommending vaccination for 12 – 15 year olds, but the government are. Understandably, this is therefore a discussion many households are having, whether separated or not, and one which gives rise to heated discussion.

As with any medical decision, it is a question that calls for parents to balance the risk of one vs the other. But… what happens when you just don’t or can’t agree?

Parents who share Parental Responsibility should make all significant decisions jointly. Parental Responsibility means the rights and responsibilities a parent has in relation to their child. A mother who has given birth to the child automatically has parental responsibility, as does a father if they were married to the mother at the time of the birth or otherwise named on the birth certificate.

If parents cannot agree whether a child of 15 or under should receive any of the Covid vaccinations, then one or other should make an application to the Court. We have little guidance on this new issue as to how and what a Court may decide in this area but when making any Order the Court take in to account:-

  1. the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of his age and understanding);
  2. their physical, emotional and educational needs;
  3. the likely effect on them of any change in his circumstances;
  4. age, sex, background and any of their characteristics the court considers relevant;
  5. any harm which they have suffered or are at risk of suffering;
  6. how capable each of his parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting his needs;
  7. the range of powers available to the court

Having received an increasing number of concerned queries, if this is a situation you find yourself in, please do not hesitate to contact someone in our family team. We are ready and able to assist.