What happens when parents disagree about child vaccination?
Despite recent concerns about MMR vaccination, there now seems to be widespread agreement that the routine childhood vaccinations are very worthwhile. The onus is on the parent who refuses a vaccination for their child to take court action to prevent it. A recent English appeal judgement supported a local authority which wanted to vaccinate a child against the wishes of the parents. Anyone arguing in favour of child vaccinations should be able to use this to reinforce their case if the issue goes to court. A more recent English judgement concluded that refusal of Covid vaccination by one parent could also be overcome.
Can one parent stop a child being vaccinated?
Some types of child vaccination such as MMR have attracted opposition, and this is also happening with Coronavirus vaccines for children. If parents don’t agree whether a child should be vaccinated, the matter can be raised in court. The matter becomes more complicated if only the mother has parental rights and responsibilities or if a child is in care of the local authority. A recent English court judgement endorses the wisdom and efficacy of vaccination and places the onus on the parent who opposes vaccination to raise court action to stop the vaccination – see this roundup article for more background. A more recent English judgment applies this to Covid vaccination
I have contact time with my kids coming up but my ex has told me they won’t come because of Coronavirus. What should I do.
If communication isn’t good with the other parent there is a tendency to be suspicious, quite apart from the upset that comes with losing time with your children. At the present moment (though the situation is changing at short notice) if neither the children nor their parent – or you – have been in direct contact with someone diagnosed with Coronavirus then contact ought to take place if there is agreement between parents or a court order. There is official guidance supporting this and the lockdown law includes this as an exclusion in the movement restrictions. Parent Club also has useful information
The decision might be being made in good faith, although overcautious. However, even if you are suspicious there is no great purpose in having an argument. Our advice is to demonstrate that you are a responsible parent with concern about your children’s health. You could reply – by text or e mail so you have a record of it – asking for some form of Face Time with your children during the time you should have had them. If the other parent is being genuine there will be no reason to refuse. If there is no prohibition on sending anything through the post you can send a cheery card saying that you hope to see them soon. Government guidance is that self-isolation should be 10 days if no symptoms have developed in the meantime.
What proportion of parents suffer from post-natal depression?
It is estimated that at least one in ten women are affected by post-natal depression (PND) within a year of giving birth. A smaller but not insignificant proportion of fathers are also affected. Contact your GP or health visitor if you think that you or your partner are affected by PND. Local support organisations such as those listed here can also help. Fathers Network Scotland has been training perinatal health professionals to ask new dads as well as new mums how they’re feeling.
Do I have the right to obtain health information about my child?
If both parents have parental rights and responsibilities they should have equal rights to obtain health information about their children, unless there is a court order preventing one of both of them from having this information. In practice the parent who has most care of the children may restrict or prevent this communication. Health providers can be reluctant to go against such restrictions, and we would suggest that it is best to make a formal request by letter or email to a senior staff member if this problem occurs. For children aged 12 or above, the health provider has to respect the views of a child or young person if they don’t want one or both of their parents to receive information (Gillick Competent) The British Medical Association issues BMA Parental Responsibility guidance on this issue.
Can I attend health appointments for my child?
We have recently lauched the new Shared Parenting Scotland website and are continuing to work hard to develop the content. We hope to have this available soon. In the meantime, if you have any specifc questions, please contact us.