In a recent decision, the Court has considered the views of a child that did not want to be vaccinated against Covid-19, and gave them significant weight.

The judge rejected the mother’s attempt to remove her twelve year old son from his father, who had a strong anti-vaccination stance, until her son is fully vaccinated.

When will a Court consider a child’s views?

In proceedings involving the guardianship and care of children, the law requires children to be given reasonable opportunities to express their views on matters being considered by the Court. The Court must consider the child’s views, however the consideration given to the child’s views must be weighed against their age and maturity.

The weight given to a child’s views will ultimately depend on what is appropriate in the given circumstances, therefore even if the child’s views are considered, they may not be decisive. The more consistent a child’s views are, the more weight they will be given.

How did the Court make its decision?

In conversations with the judge, the child objected to being vaccinated. He understood the vaccine limited the spread of the virus to immunocompromised individuals, but he said it was his understanding that there was a lack of evidence regarding the vaccine’s effectiveness, its contents, and the testing process, as well as it being against his religious views.

He also understood the consequences of not being vaccinated as being unable to go to cafes, swimming pools, camping, and extracurricular group activities.

The judge regarded the child as articulate, sensible, and intelligent, so took his views into account when making a decision.

The judge stated that children with sufficient maturity and understanding may be capable of providing consent without requiring their parents’ consent, because the child is deemed responsible enough to make authoritative decisions about their own body and health.

The judge considered that even though the child’s view was not mainstream, it could not be held to be an uninformed view. Additionally, the child had the right to refuse vaccination as the government did not make vaccination mandatory for all citizens, and he understood the social consequences of being unvaccinated.

The judge also did not accept that the child should only be exposed to one view regarding vaccination. Even though the child held some factually incorrect views about the vaccine, it was not for the Court, in a free and democratic society, to order the child to only be exposed to the mainstream view or solely the beliefs of one parent, like his mother argued. The child was free to be exposed to a range of varied views in order to make decisions about his health and wellbeing.

Therefore, in some circumstances the Court may place significant weight on a child’s view on vaccination. Due to questions regarding vaccination of children becoming more common, cases similar to this are more likely to appear.

 

Leading law firms committed to helping clients cost-effectively will have a range of fixed-price Initial Consultations to suit most people’s needs in quickly learning what their options are.  At Rainey Collins we have an experienced team who can answer your questions and put you on the right track.

Gianna Menzies