Watch out, COVID-19 vaccine disputes are set to become the next battleground in family law.
While vaccines are not yet being offered to those under-18, there will come a point soon when children are next in line for COVID-19 vaccinations. As part of the broader anti-vaccine movement online, some parents have expressed reluctance regarding the vaccination of their children. If a couple is separated and parents disagree on vaccination plans, where does the law stand?
COVID-19 Vaccinations and Family Law
In family law, you’ll often hear lawyers and judges recommending a course of action that’s in the best interest of the child. With regards to the COVID-19 pandemic, herd immunity can only be reached if enough people (including children) are eventually vaccinated. Immunized children will contribute to this effort, protecting themselves as well as their community. This broadens the scope of the court’s decision making, while remaining true to the core belief of “what’s best for the child.”
Luckily, we have some recent legal precedents we can examine for guidance on COVID-19 vaccines and children.
In this BC family law case, divorced parents couldn’t reach a consensus on their children’s regularly scheduled immunizations. One parent did not want the children vaccinated, while one parent did. The judge presiding over the case, Judge S.D. Frame, noted the following:
Immunizations play a central role in the prevention of infectious diseases in children and the severe complications that can result. In addition, immunized children contribute to a herd immunity effect to protect the community as a whole. In particular, children who travel abroad should be up to date with the immunization schedule.
In this instance, the judge ruled in favour of the parent seeking to have the children immunized.
Moving east to Ontario, we find a case that deals with COVID-19 vaccinations. With Tarkowski v. Lemieux, the Ontario Court of Justice granted custody of the child to the mother, while simultaneously giving the father the right to decide whether the child should receive vaccinations, including a COVID-19 vaccination. The judge factored in the mother’s history of anti-vaccine sentiment, deciding the father was better qualified to make the decision on behalf of the child.
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If you have questions or concerns about vaccines and your children, contact us today to speak with a lawyer. We are hard at work to ensure you and your child’s best interests are safeguarded during this stressful time.