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Is the COVID-19 Vaccination in a Child’s Best Interest? 

by Caroline Watson

Published: January, 2021

Submission: January, 2021

 



If parents cannot agree whether their children should be vaccinated, they can make an application under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989 to ask a judge to determine the issue.

In M v H (Private Law Vaccination) [2020],  the mother objected to the parties' two children aged six-years-old and four-years-old  being given routine childhood vaccines in accordance with the NHS vaccination schedule. The father applied for a specific issue order requiring the children to be vaccinated and extended his application to include future travel abroad and the COVID-19 vaccination. MacDonald J granted the father's application requiring the parties' children to be given routine childhood vaccinations. Provided the COVID-19 vaccination is approved for use in children, the court is likely to consider such vaccination in a child's best interests.


His judgement can be summarised as follows:


  • Absent a credible development in medical science or peer review research evidence that indicates significant concern for the efficacy or safety of a vaccine or well evidenced medical contraindication specific to the child in question, it would be very difficult to foresee a case where it would not be in a child’s best interest to be vaccinated.
  • If a credible development in medical science or new peer-reviewed research emerges in proceedings about a vaccine dispute, the court would be likely to require evidence from an expert in the field of immunology.
  • The vaccinations did not constitute a disproportionate interference with the children's rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

This case was heard on 10 December 2020. The judge was not prepared to make a specific order with respect to the COVID-19 vaccination and made it clear that his decision to defer reaching a conclusion regarding administration to the children of the vaccine  did not signal any doubt on the part of the court regarding the probity or efficacy of that vaccine.  Rather, it reflected the very early stage reached with respect to administration of the COVID-19 vaccine to children.


Case: M v H (Private Law Vaccination) [2020] EWFC 93 (15 December 2020) (MacDonald J)


M v H (Private Law Vaccination) [2020] EWFC 93 (15 December 2020) (bailii.org)


 



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