With more than 15 million people in the UK having received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine – part of the biggest inoculation program the country has ever launched, vaccinations are undoubtedly a hot topical issue, reported across all news stations daily. Now, the pharmaceutical companies who developed the vaccines which have been approved by UK health authorities for use on adults, are running trials to see how the vaccine performs in children. Almost certainly, sometime in the near future, the Covid-19 vaccine will also be offered to children.

Such development has the potential to lead to family conflicts – particularly between parents. What will happen if two parents disagree on whether their child should receive the Covid-19 vaccine?

Both parents of a child have parental responsibility. Parental responsibility is defined in the Children Act 1989 as ‘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’. It provides each parent with authority to make decisions about their child, such as which school they are to attend, and significantly, whether their child should be vaccinated. Whilst both parents have parental responsibility for the child, neither parent has primacy over the other which means if there is a dispute regarding vaccinations that cannot be resolved between the parents, it will be necessary to ask the court to decide the issue. Ultimately the court will make a decision based on what they consider is in the child’s best interests.

In a recent Court of Appeal case Re H a local authority applied to the court for permission for a child in their care to receive the MMR vaccine. In her judgement, the Judge concluded that it is both ‘reasonable and responsible parental behaviour to arrange for a child to be vaccinated in accordance with the Public Health Guidelines.’ In light of the ongoing pandemic, she also stated that that ‘it would be difficult to foresee a case in which a vaccination approved for use in children, including the Covid-19 vaccine, would not be endorsed as being in a child’s best interests, unless there was credible medical research to question the safety or efficacy of the vaccination, specific to the child in question.’ Although this did not make up part of the binding judgement, her comments are notable.

If you are experiencing disagreements with your child’s other parent whether relating to vaccines or any other issue, the B P Collins Family team are here to help. Get in touch on enquiries@bpcollins.co.uk or 01753 889995.

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