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What’s the position with regard children being vaccinated against Covid-19?

From today people in England will see restrictions start to lift as part of the government’s roadmap to easing lockdown, this means, we will see all our children returning to school and college for face to face learning.

There will be twice-weekly rapid testing for secondary and college pupils. There will also be regular testing for all teachers with a view to reducing the chance of the virus spreading in schools.

This saw hundreds of children attending school sports halls and leisure centres over the weekend to be tested in readiness for today.

Whilst our vaccination roll out is well underway, children are not yet part of the UKs vaccine roll out. However, there are clinical trials currently underway to look at the safety and immune responses in children and young adults.

The vaccine priority list also excludes anyone under the age of 16, even the clinically extremely vulnerable. Furthermore, the final priority group “rest of the population” is yet to be determined. The landscape with regard whether children shall receive the Covid vaccination will unveil over the coming months.

What happens if parents with parental responsibility are unable to agree about vaccinating their child?

In such circumstances, a Private Law Children Act Application for a Specific Issue Order would need to be made to the Court to determine whether the child should be vaccinated.

The recent case of M v H ( private law vaccination) [2020] EWFC 93, saw the Court granting a specific issue order allowing the administration of vaccinations to two children, as per the NHS vaccination schedule.

In reaching its decision, the Court considered the role of the court in this area, the application of the principles set out in Re H (A Child: Parental Responsibility: Vaccination) [2020] EWCA Civ 664 in private law disputes, the use of expert evidence and the approach to proportionality under Article 8.

In this case, the MacDonald J declined to decide on vaccination for Covid-19 for the children, as requested by the father, as he felt such a decision would be premature, given the absence of official guidance in this regard at present.

However, MacDonald J stated:

“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”.

Therefore, in conclusion, I believe it will be difficult for a parent to argue against a child being vaccinated against Covid-19, if there is recognised recommendation of the use of the vaccine in children. In the meantime, we will need to wait and see the outcome of the clinical trials and what this will mean for our children and young adults.