The issue of vaccination of adults against the coronavirus is a contentious one in some quarters.  The question of vaccinating children against other diseases has come up over the years. Vaccination is not compulsory, but it is dealt with by the court if parents separate and disagree about it. In some cases, one parent feels very strongly against vaccination, and the other parent accepts the position whilst they remain together but not after separation.  It is a matter which both parents have a say on if they have parental responsibility, and any decision made by the court is on the basis of the child's best interests. 

 A recent case (M v H (private law vaccination) [2020] EWFC 93) dealt with whether two young children should receive vaccinations in accordance with the NHS vaccination schedule. The mother opposed their vaccination and the father made an application to the court for  an order that they should be vaccinated. 

The mother acted for herself, and had obtained information online. Her main arguments were that vaccination did not necessarily lead to immunisation, that her children had strong immune systems and that the side effects of vaccines are more detrimental to children that the effects of the diseases they vaccinate against. 

The father argued that vaccination was in the children's best interests, and this was supported by the children's guardian. The judge concluded that the children should be vaccinated. In previous cases it has been held that it is generally in children's interests to be vaccinated in accordance with the schedule recommended by Public Health England, unless there is new credible evidence to the contrary regarding safety and efficacy of the vaccine, or there are particular contra indications in respect of the individual child.

The father also wanted the court to order that the children should in future be vaccinated against covid. The judge did not make that order but made it clear that this was not because he was expressing any doubt about the covid vaccine. However, at the time of his judgment it was unclear whether and when children will receive the vaccine, which vaccine they will receive and what the official guidance will be regarding the administration to the vaccine in children. 

The judge went on to say that if the vaccine against covid is approved for use in children then it is very difficult to foresee a situation in which a court would not endorse its use, unless there was a particular well evidenced medical reason not to vaccinate that particular child, or peer reviewed research evidence regarding significant concerns regarding safety. 

It remains to be seen whether any parent is able to argue against a child having the covid vaccine, when any programme for vaccinating children is clearer. Any arguments would need to be based on scientific evidence, most likely by a single joint expert, and not on "tendentious, partial and partisan material gathered from the Internet" referred to in a previous case as "junk science".