• Posted

Following the recommendations put forward by the UK’s Chief Medical Officers, it has just been announced that children aged 12 to 15 in England will be offered one dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. The government will deliver a schools-based vaccination programme that will begin from 20 September 2021. It will require parental, guardian or carer consent prior to vaccination – so what happens if parents have different views of the vaccine?

Consent and parental responsibility 

Vaccinations should only be given to children where all those with parental responsibility agree. If there is a dispute between parents about whether a child should receive the vaccination and a solution can’t be reached between them or by using mediation or collaborative law, an application to the family court will need to be made for a specific issue order to determine whether the child should be vaccinated. The decision will be determined based on the welfare of the child and what is known as the ‘welfare checklist’.

A parent who objects to their child having the Covid-19 vaccine, or any other vaccine available on the NHS, would have to show the family court there is a credible development in medical science or new peer-reviewed research evidence indicating significant concern for the effectiveness or safety of a vaccine. Alternatively, parents would have to show a well evidenced medical condition specific to the child to show that the vaccine could be harmful to them. In the absence of such evidence, it is likely that a family court will determine that it is in a child’s best interests to receive a vaccine which has been approved by Public Health England and is offered by the NHS and grant a specific issue order for the child to be vaccinated.

If you and your ex-partner can’t agree on consenting to the Covid-19 vaccine for your children and need legal advice, please contact our family team.

This article was co-written by Helen Clyne, family lawyer and Emma Richardson, trainee lawyer.

Read our other family law article around the Covid vaccine and children.

What happens if you object to your child having the Covid-19 vaccine? 

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.