Father can have children vaccinated despite mother's objection
A father has been granted a court order for his children to be vaccinated despite objections from their mother.
The children were aged six and four. The parents had separated, and the children lived with the mother. The parents were involved in proceedings for a child arrangement order under the Children Act 1989.
The mother opposed vaccination because she said her extensive online research showed that the MMR vaccine did not offer lifelong immunity, whereas if the children contracted the diseases, they would then become immune naturally.
She also argued that the MMR diseases were generally mild in healthy children, she ensured her children were well-nourished to boost their immune system, and there was a serious question mark over the efficacy and probity of vaccinations for children.
The father favoured vaccination as the safer option. The Family Court found in his favour.
It held that it was in the best interests of both children to make a specific issue order requiring them to be given each of the vaccines that were currently specified on the NHS vaccination schedule, for the following reasons:
- There was a dispute between parents who each held parental responsibility as to whether the children should be vaccinated. As that dispute was not capable of compromise between them, the court was required to determine the issue.
- While it was not compulsory to have children vaccinated, the current scientific evidence had established that it was generally in the best interests of otherwise healthy children to be vaccinated and it was for the public good.
- The views of parents always had to be considered, but the weight given to them depended not on the vehemence with which they were expressed but on their substance.
- Requiring the children to have the vaccinations might interfere with their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights, but the objective to protect them from the consequences of disease and the population more widely from the spread of disease, was sufficiently important to justify the limitation of a fundamental right.
- A less intrusive measure, such as the dietary options advanced by the mother to boost the children's immune systems, could not be used without unacceptably compromising the objective of the vaccination programme. Requiring vaccination struck a fair balance between the children's rights and the interests of the community.
Please contact Paul Owen if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of family law.