Children in care can be vaccinated against their parents’ wishes without courts having to intervene, senior judges said today.
Three judges said scientific evidence ‘clearly establishes’ it is in the best interests of children to be immunised unless there is a specific reason for them not to be.
The ruling comes at a time when researchers around the world are working on a vaccine for the coronavirus.
Lady Justice King, sitting with Lords Justice McCombe and Peter Jackson, made the judgement in a Court of Appeal ruling published today.
Three judges ruled that children in care can be vaccinated against their parents wishes because scientific evidence ‘clearly establishes’ it is in their best interests, after London’s Tower Hamlet Council went to the High Court. Pictured: A volunteer is injected with the vaccine in Oxford University’s vaccine trial
Lady Justice King (pictured), sitting with Lords Justice McCombe and Peter Jackson, made the ruling after a case in which a couple refused to agree to their son being vaccinated
They said councils should not make decisions regarding vaccinations based on the strength of parents’ views unless they have a ‘real bearing’ on the child’s welfare.
The judge also said it is neither ‘necessary nor appropriate’ for councils to go to court every time a parent objects to their child being vaccinated.
She said: ‘The administration of standard or routine vaccinations cannot be regarded as being a ‘serious’ or ‘grave’ matter.
‘Except where there are significant features which suggest that, unusually, it may not be in the best interests of a child to be vaccinated, it is neither necessary nor appropriate for a local authority to refer the matter to the High Court in every case where a parent opposes the proposed vaccination of their child.
Tower Hamlets Council went to the High Court arguing that, under the Children Act 1989, it had the power to arrange for the vaccinations to be carried out
‘To do so involves the expenditure of scarce time and resources by the local authority, the unnecessary instruction of expert medical evidence and the use of High Court time which could be better spent dealing with one of the urgent and serious matters which are always awaiting determination in the Family Division.’
The ruling came after a case in which a couple refused to agree to their son being vaccinated.
The couple, whose son – referred to only as T – was placed in foster care, had refused to agree to the child receiving his routine childhood immunisations.
Tower Hamlets Council went to the High Court arguing that, under the Children Act 1989, it had the power to arrange for the vaccinations to be carried out.
The council said if this was not the case, then the court should grant an order authorising the injections as they were in the child’s best interests.
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In February, a High Court judge accepted the council’s argument and said it did have the authority to arrange for the immunisations to take place.
The parents then went to the Court of Appeal but they dropped part of the appeal at a hearing in April.
They said they were no longer challenging the merits of the High Court’s order permitting the council to arrange T’s vaccinations.
The healthy boy’s immunisations are now due to go ahead.
The Court of Appeal was asked to decide whether a local authority has the powers to arrange for the routine vaccination of a child in its care where the parents have refused to consent.
Giving the court’s judgment, Lady Justice King said: ‘The question that arises here is whether the local authority has the power to consent to vaccination in the best interests of the child, and thereby to provide lawful authority for something that is not compulsory.’
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‘Although vaccinations are not compulsory, the scientific evidence now clearly establishes that it is in the best medical interests of children to be vaccinated in accordance with Public Health England’s guidance unless there is a specific contra-indication in an individual case.’
She concluded that, under the Children Act, ‘a local authority with a care order can arrange and consent to a child in its care being vaccinated where it is satisfied that it is in the best interests of that individual child, notwithstanding the objections of parents’.
The conclusion comes as Oxford University entered the trial stages of a coronavirus vaccine.
Earlier this week it emerged that all six of the monkeys that were used in the Oxford University vaccine trial had gone on to catch the coronavirus.
The potential vaccine was steamrolled into human trials last month, with more than 1,000 people receiving the immunisation.