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Wales Online
Wales Online
Neil Shaw

Dad can get children Covid vaccines against wishes of their mother, court rules

A father has been given permission to arrange for his children to be vaccinated against coronavirus after their mother opposed vaccination. The family court was asked to settle a dispute between two parents described as “diametrically opposed” over vaccinating their daughters, aged between eight and 10.

While the father supports vaccination, the mother opposes vaccines, in part because of her “general suspicion of their effectiveness and/or necessity”, Her Honour Judge Judith Rowe KC said. Her judgment was delivered in private at West London Family Court on August 8 and published on September 30 and specified that the family must not be identified.

Judge Rowe said if both parents held the same view, it would be “perfectly lawful” for the girls not to be vaccinated, but the court must decide when they disagree. In her ruling, she noted that the mother “struggles in principle with any decision about vaccination” and would prefer to leave such choices to her children.

The judge said: “They are of an age where their parents or, in default of agreement, the court should bear the burden of making the decision and not the girls themselves, young as they are and more especially where they are living primarily with a carer with this mother’s adverse views about vaccination in principle. The science considered by the government may change. The legal principles applicable to vaccination may change.

“But on the basis of the current science and the current applicable law, I conclude that the father should have permission to arrange for the Covid-19 vaccination offered by the government for the children from time to time.”

At a previous hearing in 2021 the parents, who had separated by this point, agreed their daughters could receive various jabs listed under the NHS catch-up schedule. This was on the basis that the father takes the girls to their vaccinations, the jabs are spaced apart and the girls are not vaccinated if they are unwell.

At this stage the coronavirus vaccine was not available for young children but its roll-out was anticipated. A few months after the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) approved coronavirus vaccines for younger children, the father asked the court to consider this issue.

The mother’s lawyer, Francis Hoar, argued that the coronavirus vaccine is a novel treatment approved only on a temporary basis and referred to earlier JCVI advice not to routinely vaccinate all children, Judge Rowe said. When the JCVI recommended a “non-urgent” offer of the jab for children aged 5-11, on February 16, it said such children are at extremely low risk of falling seriously ill and vaccination is likely to offer short-term protection against non-severe infection.

Mr Hoar argued that, for these girls, “the balance is plainly against vaccination given the lack of positive benefit set against the known risks which, albeit statistically unlikely, are extremely serious should they arise”, the judgment said. However, the judge said the position was “quite simply a hopeless case”, given that the JCVI made its recommendation, having taken into consideration factors it had mentioned, and this was accepted by the Government.

The girls’ father, she said, relied “squarely” on published guidance from government and public bodies. He argued that the offer of vaccines to younger children and encouragement to parents to take it up is of interest to children, parents and the public, and there is no concern over the jabs’ efficacy or safety.

Judge Rowe gave permission for him to arrange coronavirus vaccines for his daughters under the same conditions agreed for the other vaccinations. Kesha Pabari, a specialist family solicitor at Osbornes Law who acted for the father, said the judgment “sets a definite precedent” for parents wishing to have their child vaccinated against Covid-19.

She said: “The judge described this as a ‘hopeless case’ on the mother’s part and it is more than a warning shot across the bows for parents disputing the Covid vaccines, it is a clear indication that the court is likely to follow public health guidance. “This judge stated that this is subject to any medical research to the opposite effect. There is now no doubt that when parents are involved in a dispute over the Covid vaccine, it will be treated by the court like any other recommended vaccine.”

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