Vaccinating children: when parents disagree

The NHS has extended Covid-19 vaccines to 5 – 15-year-old children. Some parents may find themselves in a difficult position if they do not agree on whether their child should be inoculated.

Do both parents need to consent to their child getting vaccinated?

Where both parents share Parental Responsibility, you will need to discuss and agree on important decisions affecting your child’s life, such as medical treatment. This also applies to any other person who has Parental Responsibility for the child, such as a step-parent.

You do not need permission from the other parent if they do not have Parental Responsibility for the child, but it may be sensible to obtain their consent to avoid any potential conflict.

Do I have Parental Responsibility?

 A mother will automatically have Parental Responsibility for their child. A child’s father will have Parental Responsibility if he was married to the mother or, if unmarried, his name is on the child’s birth certificate. If you have jointly adopted a child, both parents will have Parental Responsibility. In any other case, a father will not have an automatic right to Parental Responsibility without an order from the court or without entering into a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother. 

What if parents disagree on their child getting vaccinated?

If both parents have Parental Responsibility and cannot agree whether their child should be vaccinated, including the Covid-19 vaccine, MMR, flu, etc., then the court will ultimately need to make the decision as to the appropriate course of action.

An application would need to be made to the court to make a Specific Issue Order. The court will consider the application and determine whether it is in the child’s best interests to be vaccinated.

How will the courts determine whether a child should be vaccinated?

In October a judgement was given on a case that came before Luton Family Court. The application was to determine if 11-year-old and 14-year-old boys should have NHS recommended vaccines, including the Covid-19 jab. The Court decided that the opposing parent had not done enough to disprove the scientific consensus recommending vaccinations. 

Guidance issued by the NHS to schools provides that some older children may be sufficiently mature to provide their own consent. If the child wishes to have the vaccine, they can be vaccinated, even if a parent hasn’t returned the consent form. It is for children of junior school age where the question of parental consent is important. 

As the law stands currently, where there is a dispute between parents over whether or not their child should be vaccinated against Covid-19, it is likely in the absence of evidence to the contrary, that the Court will consider it in the best interests of the child to receive the vaccine. 

Need our help?

If you are concerned about whether you have Parental Responsibility for your child or need advice on any possible disagreement regarding your child getting vaccinated, do not hesitate to contact us today, via

Read my other columns here.

Gina Nicolas, EJ Coombs Solicitors


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