More on vaccinations – the decision in Re K
The plethora of legal decisions dealing with the issue of routine vaccinations in children is by no means complete. I recently considered the issue of vaccination in the context of potential Covid-19 vaccinations of children (see here), however even in respect of the ‘routine childhood vaccinations’, the court is still being asked to consider competing interests of parents and local authorities, as was the case in Re K  EWHC 3775 (Fam).
The matter of vaccination has come back before the court in this case at an interim stage in care proceedings, an application being made by the parents objecting to vaccination of the child, who is in local authority care under an interim care order made in 2019. The child was born in 2017 and, at the date of the hearing, had not received any of her routine childhood vaccinations.
The parents’ case was essentially that they objected to vaccination on 3 grounds:
- Medical safety;
- Ethical concerns; and,
- Religious grounds.
The question put to the court by the parents and summarised by Francis J at paragraph 45 was as follows:
“Why is it fair when our child might not end up in care that she's been forcibly vaccinated against our wishes when other children who are not in care are not subjected to that procedure against the wishes of their parents?”
The parents and the court noted that at an interim stage of proceedings, the final outcome of care proceedings is not known and therefore this decision would be made when the child would potentially return to their care at the conclusion of proceedings.
Francis J at paragraph 33 of the judgment however noted that;
“It is also essential for me to underline that in that case the decision of the Court applies equally to a child in the interim care of a Local Authority as it does to a child the subject of a final care order”
Noting also that he could not accede to the parents’ objections on the basis of the scientific reasons that they advanced, he did consider their ethical and religious beliefs and the applicability of those to the decision whether or not to vaccinate the child.
Dealing with the rights and the welfare of the child as his paramount consideration, the Judge considered that he was bound by the guidance of King LJ in Re H (A Child)(Parental Responsibility: Vaccination)  EWCA Civ 664, and rejected the parents’ application.
This case follows the authority of Re H and outlines that, for the purposes of such applications for/against vaccination of a child, it is not a matter which needs to await a final hearing to see whether a full care order will be made. It is sufficient for the court to find that vaccination is in the child’s best interests and for a programme of vaccination to be approved on that basis, the child’s welfare being the paramount consideration before the court, and it being recognised that, in the majority of cases, the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks.