Baby vaccinated against his mother’s will

Posted: 14th February 2017

VaccinationParents generally know what is best for their children but, in rare cases, doubt is cast on their decision making and family judges are obliged to intervene. Exactly that happened in one case in which the High Court granted permission to vaccinate a seven-month-old baby boy against his mother's wishes.

The boy was currently in the care of a local authority, London Borough of Barnet. The mother objected to him receiving two jabs – which would protect him against conditions including meningitis, pneumonia and septic arthritis – on the basis that three of her older children had in the past suffered negative reactions to vaccination including a swollen leg, ear infection and a rash. She argued that the threat of infection was low and that vaccination was not worth the risk.

However, medical experts were unanimous that the Hib and PCV vaccinations were mandated by the seriousness of the conditions that they were designed to guard against, particularly meningitis, which is hard to diagnose and potentially fatal.

The Court accepted that vaccinating the boy would impinge on his mother’s human right to respect for her family life. She was entitled to make a decision based on her assessment of the likelihood of infection and how severe that infection might be in terms of outcome. However, in authorising the local authority to arrange the boy’s vaccination, the Court noted the divergence between the mother’s views and those of the experts. The boy’s welfare was paramount and vaccination would be in his best interests.