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The Anti Vaccine debate continues...

Dec 17, 2020

The Anti Vaccine debate continues...

With the anti vaccination lobby shouting ever louder, what will the Courts response be?

The Courts have already been hearing cases concerning whether to give children the COVID 19 vaccine.  The judgement from the recent private law case M v H (Private law : Vaccination) 2020 has just been handed down and it makes for interesting reading.  The full text of the judgement can be found here.

In our view there are two very important paragraphs within the judgement, at paragraph 4: 

M v H (Private Law: Vaccination) [2020] EWFC 93 (15 December 2020) (bailii.org)

'I wish to make abundantly clear to anyone reading this judgment that my decision to defer reaching a conclusion regarding the administration to the children of the vaccine against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 does not signal any doubt on the part of this court regarding the probity or efficacy of that vaccine. Rather, it reflects the fact that, given the very early stage reached with respect to the COVID-19 vaccination programme, it remains unclear at present whether and when children will receive the vaccination, which vaccine or vaccines they will receive in circumstances where a number of vaccines are likely to be approved and what the official guidance will be regarding the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine to children. As I make clear at the conclusion of this judgment, having regard to the principles that I reiterate below it is very difficult to foresee a situation in which a vaccination against COVID-19 approved for use in children would not be endorsed by the court as being in a child's best interests, absent peer-reviewed research evidence indicating significant concern for the efficacy and/or safety of one or more of the COVID-19 vaccines or a well evidenced contraindication specific to that subject child. However, given a degree of uncertainty that remains as to the precise position of children with respect to one or more of the COVID-19 vaccines consequent upon the dispute in this case having arisen at a point very early in the COVID-19 vaccination programme, I am satisfied it would be premature to determine the dispute that has arisen in this case regarding that vaccine'.

And finally the summing up at paragraph 52:

“Finally, whilst the Court of Appeal did not reach a definitive conclusion on the question of whether, in private law proceedings, the question of vaccination should or should not continue to require court adjudication where there is a dispute between holders of parental responsibility, the observations of the Court of Appeal in in Re H (A Child: Parental Responsibility: Vaccination) summarised at paragraph [40] of this judgment, whilst strictly obiter, make it very difficult now to foresee a case in which a vaccination approved for use in children, including vaccinations against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, would not be endorsed by the court as being in a child's best interests, absent a credible development in medical science or peer-reviewed research evidence indicating significant concern for the efficacy and/or safety of the vaccine or a well evidenced medical contraindication specific to the subject child.

So what do we take from this? We simply acknowledge that at the moment its really early in the vaccination programme to assess when or exactly how children will be vaccinated.  But that being said, it’s extremely hard to foresee a situation where the Courts would not agree that it is in a child’s best interests to have a vaccine, unless there is significant and compelling medical evidence to the contrary.

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