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Since COVID-19 entered Australia in early 2020, there have been
questions raised as to the best way to enable health systems
worldwide to cope with the virus and protect people from its
Pfizer and other pharmaceutical companies hurried to develop a
vaccine that was rolled out as quickly as possible, leading to
ongoing discussions in the community about safety concerns and
whether the short and long term side effects had been given proper
What has come before with vaccinations and children in
In the past, the Family Court has been asked to make decisions
about various medical treatments or interventions when parents have
separated and are unable to agree on an outcome on their necessity.
As per the Family Law Act 1975, decisions with respect to
children will be made in accordance with what is considered to be
in the best interests of the child.
Historically when it has come to vaccinations and preventative
medicines, generally the Court have followed medical expert
evidence and advice and have in some cases ruled in favour of
inoculating children against diseases for which vaccinations have
existed for many years; and improved in their efficacy, meaning the
risk of side effects has been sufficiently reduced or limited.
The possible outcome
The question has been whether or not the Family Court will make
an Order requiring parents to vaccinate their child against
COVID-19 in circumstances where vaccinations (despite having been
put through the required medical testing regime), have only been
around for a short term and the long term effects cannot truly be
known at this point in time.
Public opinion has been divided and there are some clear
advocates for and against the vaccination, and whether it should be
administered to children. We have previously discussed this issue
and how these matters can be appropriately dealt with by separated
parents (See article ‘Co parenting and vaccination
disagreements‘ by Associate, Mia Chenoweth).
Recent ruling example on vaccinations and children
The Family Court of Australia has recently given a ruling
involving a 12-year-old girl from New South Wales in which the
Court determined that the risk of the child contracting COVID-19
far outweighed the risks of any potential side effects from the
Pfizer vaccination. The Court made an order that permitted the
parent in favour of giving the child the vaccination to obtain a
vaccination for her, despite the objection of the other parent.
This Court’s decision relating to this case is yet to be
published, meaning the individual facts including specific reasons
why the Court ruled in this way are not known. The outcome of this
case does not mean that each and every matter related to children
and vaccination decisions will see the same outcome, however it is
a clear example of the Court making an Order in favour of a child
receiving the Pfizer vaccination in circumstances where her parents
disagreed about the vaccination being given to her.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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