Where does the Court stand on childhood vaccinations?

This case relates to a mother and father who were in a relationship from 2004 to 2017, with two children born in 2014 and 2016 respectively. Following the breakdown of the relationship the parties tried mediation where they were unable to resolve their differences. The father then applied, in March 2019, for a child arrangement and a specific issues order. Given the very high conflict between the parents the court took the view that it would be helpful to separate out the specific issues from the child arrangements and to deal with the former first.

Initially, the specific issues application sought an order requiring the children to be vaccinated in accordance with the NHS vaccination schedule which, the father argued was in the children's best interests. The application was subsequently expanded to include vaccinations for travel and later for Covid-19.

The mother opposed the application on nine, well argued but poorly evidenced, grounds:

  1. Vaccination is not inevitably immunisation (suggesting a failure rate of 2 - 10% of cases).
  2. Vaccination does not prevent a person from "carrying" the disease (undermining the public health benefits)
  3. The diseases covered by the NHS vaccination schedule are childhood illnesses which, in healthy and well-nourished children (which hers are), are generally mild, with serious complications being uncommon, and fatal complications even more so.
  4. That further research is required into the efficacy and probity of vaccinations for children, particularly in relation to the long-term effects of the ingredients.
  5. That PHE is not keeping up with developing science that shows long term adverse health consequences greater than those protected against by the vaccines.
  6. The side effects of vaccines are more detrimental to children than the effect of the diseases they vaccinate against.
  7. The children should be tested for "natural immunity" before the court moves to authorise the vaccination of the children.
  8. An order authorising the children to be vaccinated would be an unnecessary and disproportionate breach of the children's right to private and family life under Art 8 of the ECHR.
  9. Previous case law is qualitatively different from this case and therefore any judgment should be made in isolation from previous decisions.

The children were represented through a Guardian who contended that the court was able safely to conclude that the risk to the children's health in respect of not receiving any recommended vaccinations would be far greater to their health than the risk of their receiving vaccinations.

In considering the matter the court started by narrowing the issue to those vaccines covered by the NHS schedule. This was on the basis that vaccination for future travel was insufficiently specific and had not, in any event, been ruled out by the mother; and in relation to a Covid-19 vaccine because it would be premature given that '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.'

The court concluded that:

The judgment ends with a clear statement that 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.

The full judgment can be accessed at:

https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWFC/HCJ/2020/93.html Case: M and H [2020] EWFC 93

(Source: Bailii, 15th December 2020)

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