What happens if separated parents disagree about their child getting the COVID vaccine?

15 November 2021 Family Law Rachael MacDonald

With the US now giving the official stamp of approval for the Pfizer vaccine for children aged five to 11, it might not be long before children of a similar age in the UK are offered a COVID vaccine. Currently in the UK, the COVID vaccine is being offered to children aged 12-15. The vaccine is not mandatory, and parents who have parental responsibilities and rights will be asked to give their consent to the vaccine. But what happens if parents disagree about how best to protect their children against the virus?

Separated or divorced parents face daily challenges when it comes to bringing up their children. However, in the wake of COVID, there are a whole host of new challenges they may need to overcome. During the intial lockdowns there were questions about children moving between households and who they should be allowed to see and spend time with, especially if other extended family members were shielding, vulnerable or key workers. Worries about social distancing and attending school and whether an ex was following the guidelines or not were high on the agenda for discussion for many parents.

Now the hot topic is whether or not children should be vaccinated. If both parents have parental responsibilities and rights they should consult each other about any major decisions affecting their child or children, such as medical treatment. The best interests of the child should always come first, but with a new vaccine, and it only being offered to children in the UK now, it can be a sensitive subject for some parents. The decision to roll out the vaccine to children is based on recommendations from the UK’s vaccine experts - the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). All parents with parental responsibilities and rights will be asked for their consent and will often make this decision with their children.

If one parent does not feel comfortable with their child getting the COVID vaccine, they should discuss their concerns with the other parent and try to reach an agreement. It may be that mediation is required; an independent mediator can assist separated parents in coming to an agreement on this sensitive topic.

If agreement cannot be reached, a parent can apply to the Court to ask for a decision on what should happen. The Court will then decide what is in the best interests of the child. They will likely consider the wishes of the child and their physical and emotional needs. The Court will also likely want to know what the JCVI’s current vaccine advice is.

If you find yourself in a dispute with an ex-partner about whether or not to vaccinate your child then please speak to our expert family law team.

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