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How to Resolve Parental Disagreements over Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vaccination

on Monday, 28 June 2021.

You may disagree with the other parent when deciding on vaccinating your child against coronavirus (COVID-19), which can create stress and tension. We explore the options available to help you resolve the situation without going to court.

How to Resolve Parental Disagreements Amicably

This might seem obvious but if you are able to, the first step should always be to discuss the matter directly with the other parent to try to establish the reasons for their objection. Hearing each other's points of view can be very useful, and you might be able to alleviate the other parent's concerns or they might highlight something that you had not thought about. You might even be able to reach a compromise, eg perhaps you agree to wait until the child is a certain age, at secondary school, there is further government guidance, etc.

Not only can it be quicker, more cost efficient and less stressful to reach an agreement between you, it is positive for your child to see their parents working together even if you are parenting apart.

How Can the Courts Resolve Parental Disagreements on Child Vaccinations?

Whilst is always preferable to keep matters out of the court arena, sometimes this is not possible. If you aren't able to reach a compromise and agree on the matter then either parent has the option to make an application to the court. The welfare of the child will be the court's paramount consideration.

In the 2020 case of M v H, the court granted a parent's application for a specific issue order requiring the parties’ children to be given routine childhood vaccinations. The decision related to vaccines currently on the NHS vaccination schedule and the court was satisfied that it was in the children’s best interests to be vaccinated. In summary, the court found:

  • Scientific evidence has established that it is generally in the best interests of healthy children to be vaccinated.
  • If a credible development in medical science or new peer-reviewed research emerged 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.

Vaccinating Your Children Against Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Although this case relates to routine childhood vaccinations, the court confirmed in passing that, 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.

As the UK regulator has now approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in children aged 12 - 15 it is likely that the court would rule in favour of a child this age being administered the vaccine. We are yet to see if the vaccine will be recommended for children below the age of 12, however it is likely if this is approved, the courts would also consider such vaccination to be in a child’s best interests.

It is very likely that unless there are exceptional circumstances, the court's ruling on this matter will mirror the advice in the NHS vaccination schedule.

For specialist legal advice on parental disagreements and resolving issues such as those explored above, please contact Sam Hickman in our Family & Divorce team on 0117 925 2020, or complete the form below.

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