Vaccination is a hot topic politically, but what happens when parents have different views with respect to the vaccination of their children? 

In situations where the dispute cannot be resolved, parents may make an Application to the Family Courts seeking orders about immunisation, one way or the other. 

When the Court is called upon to make a decision about immunisation, the paramount consideration will always be in the best interests of the child. 

The Court will often rely on specialist medical evidence concerning the advantages and disadvantages of immunisation, relative to the child’s individual circumstances and medical history.

The following recent cases all deal with the issue of immunisation, and provide guidance for parents in dispute.

It is likely that orders will be made for one parent to have sole responsibility for the issue of immunisation, unless there is clear scientific evidence that it is not in the child’s best interest and there is an increased risk to that child.

Case 1: Duke-Randall & Randall[1]Outcome: immunise

The presiding Judge found that there was no evidence that the particular children in this matter would be adversely affected by being vaccinated and was satisfied that it was in their best interests for traditional medical vaccination to occur.

Case 2: Kingsford & Kingsford [2]Outcome: immunise

The mother was strongly opposed to vaccinations and sought Orders that the child be homoeopathically immunised, and that the father be restrained from traditionally immunising the child.  The Judge heard from an acknowledged expert on homeopathic immunisation but preferred the evidence of a paediatrician from the Royal Children’s Hospital.

An Order was made that the mother arrange for vaccination by her GP on a schedule provided by a paediatrician.  The Judge noted the efficiency of homeopathic vaccines in preventing infectious diseases had not been adequately scientifically demonstrated. Also, the Judge considered that the risk of harm as a result of traditional vaccinations was not so high as to outweigh the risk of infection, should the child not be vaccinated.  

Case 3: Arranzio & Moss[3]Outcome: immunise

The mother conceded under cross-examination that she would never consent to the child being vaccinated and would never provide the father with written authorisation for this to occur.  The mother sought to rely upon an expert who deposed that the child had an underlying health issue which placed him/her at a higher risk of sustaining an adverse reaction from vaccination.  It was discovered under cross-examination that the expert had never met or examined the child, and had relied on the mother’s version of events. 

The Judge in this matter did not accept the expert’s evidence.  The Judge considered that “the consequences for the child of contracting a disease against which he may be vaccinated as so significant that they significantly weigh against the grant of an injunction prohibiting the administration of a vaccine”.[4]

Liz Anderson