16/09/2021

The announcement about the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines for children has prompted understandable anxiety and questions among concerned parents.

In Beswicks’ family team we have received an influx of enquiries from separated parents about the vaccination programme for 12 to 15-year-olds.

Many of the concerns voiced by parents revolve around the speed at which the Covid-19 vaccines for children have been approved, particularly against the background of sometimes unclear and conflicting advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation and the UK Chief Medical Officers.

Are Covid-19 vaccines for children compulsory?

Vaccinations are not compulsory by law. This also applies to the Covid-19 vaccines. However, there have been a number of court cases in the past where judges have ruled that childhood vaccinations were in the best interests of the children involved despite this being against the parents’ wishes.

The general principle is that if a vaccine is approved by the regulator and in the child’s best interests, the court will likely rule in favour of administering the vaccine.

What if parents can’t agree?

If both parents have parental responsibility for a child and they have opposing views about whether their child should be vaccinated, it is known as a ‘specific issue’.

It is always better for parents to attempt to resolve ‘specific issues’ between themselves if they can, however emotive the subject matter. This can be done by discussion or family mediation and, if successful, avoids the need for costly and time-consuming court proceedings. This approach can also help to prevent the deterioration of the relationship between the parents.

If agreement cannot be reached, as a last resort an application can be made to the court for a Specific Issue Order. When this happens, the court will determine what course of action is in the child’s best interests and will make an order to that effect. Of course, the court’s decision will not necessarily be in line with what the parents want.

When considering the child’s best interests, the court will consider factors under the Welfare Checklist, including:

  • the wishes and feelings of the child, taking into account their age and understanding,
  • their physical, emotional and educational needs,
  • the likely effect on a child of any change in their circumstances,
  • their age, sex and background,
  • any harm they may be at risk of suffering, and
  • the range of powers available to the court.

It is worth noting that an application for a Specific Issue Order can be made in relation to many other types of disputes that arise from time to time between separated parents, for example, regarding which school a child should attend, appropriate medical treatment or their religion.

Family Law Solicitors here to help

If you are experiencing any of the issues outlined in this article and need advice from an experienced family lawyer or would like to be referred to family mediation services, please do get in touch by phoning 01782 205000 or emailing enquiry@beswicks.com.

Alternatively, you can book a one-hour fixed fee appointment with a member of our family team.