Home > Covid-19 vaccinations for children in care

Mr Justice Poole heard a case about whether a local authority could vaccinate children in care even if the parents objected.  On 9 November 2021 the Judge handed down a judgment Re C (Looked After Child) (Covid-19 Vaccination) [2021] EWHC 2993 (Fam).

The Judge decided that a local authority with a care order can decide to arrange and consent to a child in its care being vaccinated for Covid-19 and/or the winter flu virus notwithstanding the objections of the child’s parents, when (i) such vaccinations are part of an ongoing national programme approved by the UK Health Security Agency, (ii) the child is either not Gillick competent or is Gillick competent and consents, and (iii) the local authority is satisfied that it is necessary to do so in order to safeguard or promote the individual child’s welfare.

The Judge also decided that there is no requirement for any application to be made for the court to authorise such a decision before it is acted upon.

However, some care must be exercised to make sure that each case involves an individual decision.  The Judge said:

“25. S. 33(3) of the Children Act 1989 does not give a local authority carte blanche to proceed to arrange and consent to vaccinations in every case. Firstly, it is acknowledged that local authorities should not rely on s.33(3)(b) in relation to grave decisions with enduring or profound consequences for the child. I cannot discount the possibility that an individual child’s circumstances might make such a decision “grave”. Secondly, pursuant to s.33(4) a local authority must make what has been termed “an ‘individualised’ welfare decision in relation to the child in question prior to arranging his or her vaccination.” (per King LJ, Re H at [33]). Thirdly, as King LJ observed in Re H at [99] in the event that a local authority proposes to have a child vaccinated against the wishes of the parents, those parents can make an application to invoke the inherent jurisdiction and may, if necessary, apply for an injunction under section 8 Human Rights Act 1998 to prevent the child being vaccinated before the matter comes before a court for adjudication.

26. Nevertheless, in the great majority of cases involving looked after children, no application will need to be made by the local authority to the court in respect of decisions to proceed with Covid-19 and/or flu virus vaccinations provided under a national programme, even when there is parental objection

Despite this decision, local authorities do need to be careful to ensure that children in care who have sufficient maturity that they have Gillick capacity to make their own decisions about being vaccinated are able to make their own choice whether to have the vaccination.

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