How co-parents can deal with vaccinating children

The news that all children aged 12 to 15 in the UK will be offered one dose of a Covid vaccine will come as a relief to some parents and children alike. But for separated parents, the government’s announcement may bring with it a level of concern if they have differing views on whether their child should be vaccinated.

Hannah Gumbrill-Ward explores below some questions that may arise between co-parents with children of vaccination age and what options are open to them.

If you are separated, will both parents have a say in whether their child should have the vaccine?

If you have parental responsibility for a child, then you will automatically have the right to have a say in major decisions about that child’s life. For example, where they will live, where they will go to school or whether they should receive vaccinations or not. It is important to note that each parent will have equal responsibility for making these decisions, even if their child lives with one parent for the majority of the time: neither parent has priority over the other in their exercise of parental responsibility.

If parents have differences of opinion about vaccinating their children, what can they do?

It is inevitable that where parents have differences of opinion about whether their child should be vaccinated or not, direct discussions between them will be difficult and emotions will run high. As such, they should consider seeking the assistance of a neutral third party early on to facilitate their discussions, help them to identify the exact issues and areas of concern and try and reach a resolution. Depending on their co-parenting relationship, this could be a counsellor or therapist, parenting coach or a mediator.

Who will have the final say about whether the child can be vaccinated?

Ultimately, if the parents cannot agree on this issue between themselves, then they may have no option but to go to court and have a judge decide what is best for their child/children. While parental views must always be taken into account by the court, it will make its decision based on what is in the child’s best welfare interests and not on the strength of the parent’s particular views.

In a recent case considering whether two children should be given the vaccines that are currently specified on the NHS vaccination schedule, the court was careful to note that it would be

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, absent a credible development in medical science or peer-reviewed research evidence indicating significant concern for the efficacy and/or safety of the vaccine or a well evidenced medical contraindication specific to the subject child”.

 

Hannah Gumbrill-Ward is a Solicitor in the family practice at Winckworth Sherwood

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