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Vaccination and children law in the time of coronavirus – a public/private divide?

Date:29 SEP 2020
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Gemma Bowes, St Philips Chambers

On 5 February 2020, well before the extent of the impact that coronavirus would have on our lives was widely appreciated, Hayden J heard an application in the High Court brought by a local authority seeking a declaration under the inherent jurisdiction that it was in 10 month old ‘T’s’ interests to have a schedule of vaccinations (A Local Authority v M and others [2020] EWHC 220 (Fam)). The matter was before the Court of Appeal on 2 April 2020, when the country had been in ‘lockdown’ for just over a week and 5G conspiracy theories and burning of telephone masts were beginning to proliferate. The reserved judgment was handed down on 22 May 2020 (Re H (A Child) Parental Responsibility: Vaccination) [2020] EWCA Civ 664), coinciding with the University of Oxford publicising recruitment of volunteers for its vaccine trials. 

While the welfare of the child is paramount, the legal framework for determining disputes between holders of parental responsibility differs when a local authority shares parental responsibility. The Re H decision has further marked the divide. The Court of Appeal’s judgment is also likely to inform the basis of future arguments in disputes over a child receiving any future coronavirus vaccine.


The full article will be published in the October issue of Family Law

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