What happens when parents cannot agree whether to vaccinate their child?
M v H and others - Hearing 15 December 2020
In this case, the father successfully applied for a specific issue order under section 8 of Part II of the Children Act 1989 (ChA 1989) requiring his two children to be vaccinated. The father’s application initially concerned the MMR vaccine but ahead of the hearing the question before the court had widened to include each of the childhood vaccines that were currently included on the NHS vaccination schedule, the vaccinations that might be required in relation to future travel abroad by the children and vaccination against the coronavirus responsible for causing the COVID-19 infection. The application was opposed by the children’s mother, whose relationship with the father had broken down in 2017.
The court decided that it was in the best interests of both children to be vaccinated in accordance with the NHS vaccination schedule and that the mother had not demonstrated that there had been a credible medical development demonstrating to the required standard a significant concern for the efficacy and/or safety of any of the vaccines presently listed on the NHS vaccination schedule and/or a well evidenced medical contraindication specific to the children. However, the court held that it was not appropriate presently to decide on travel vaccinations and that it would be premature to determine the dispute that had arisen regarding the COVID-19 vaccine.
Whilst the Court did not reach a definitive conclusion on the question of whether the question of vaccination should or should not continue to require court adjudication where there is a dispute between holders of parental responsibility, following a further hearing before the Court of Appeal in in Re H (A Child: Parental Responsibility: Vaccination) it makes it very difficult now to foresee a case in which a vaccination approved for use in children, including vaccinations against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, would not be endorsed by the court as being in a child’s best interests.
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