Parenting In A Pandemic: To Vaccinate Or Not To Vaccinate? – Household and Matrimonial
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced co-parents to make difficult decisions about parental schedules, social distancing, online training, masks and now vaccinations. Last week, Health Canada approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine in children ages 5-11. The BC Center for Disease Control (the “BCCDC”) has since recommended that parents vaccinate their children against COVID-19, stating:
“Even if serious COVID-19 illnesses are not common in children, they can occur. Vaccinating children helps keep them safe and helps keep people in their families and communities – especially older adults, younger children and infants, and those with illness – safe too. “
A common parent who opposes the COVID-19 vaccination for their child is unlikely to get court support unless there are other medical reasons why the child should not be vaccinated. In matters affecting children, the court only takes into account the best interests of the child. When it comes to children and vaccines, the courts have almost always spoken out in favor of allowing the child to be vaccinated.
Even before a COVID-19 vaccine was approved for use in Canada, the Ontario Court of Justice in Tarkowski v. Lemieux, 2020 ONCJ 280 the father the authority to vaccinate his 7-year-old daughter against the virus, should a vaccine against COVID-19 become available. In this case, the mother was generally against vaccinations and initially refused to allow the child to be vaccinated as an infant.
When a vaccine later became available for children ages 12 and up, the Queen’s Bench for Saskatchewan in OMS vs. EJS, 2021 SKQB 243 ordered that a 12-year-old child be vaccinated against COVID-19 despite their desire not to be vaccinated and a diagnosis of “possible” vaccine toxicity. The father wanted his daughter to be vaccinated, but the mother resisted vehemently.
Both parents brought extensive medical evidence with them. In support of the vaccination, the father brought evidence from an infectious disease doctor, assistant professor and Canadian Research Chair in Emerging Viruses in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases of the University of Manitoba, and the child’s general practitioner from birth. In contrast, the mother brought evidence from a family doctor in another province suggesting he has a particular interest in vaccines and opposes vaccination with the Pfizer vaccine, as well as from an anesthetist and former professor regarding a “possible.” “Vaccine toxicity diagnosis. While the court preferred the father’s expert evidence, it did not rely on it.
Ultimately, the court’s decision was based on facts that did not require evidence, as they “turned out to be so notorious that they were not the subject of dispute among reasonable people”. In paragraphs 112 to 114, the General Court found:
- Canada was in a COVID-19 pandemic;
- the possibility of infection with the COVID-19 virus poses a serious and significant health risk to people in general, including children and adults; and
- The Pfizer vaccine is safe and effective for use in humans, including adults and children.
Accordingly, the court refused to consider arguments related to the legitimacy of the pandemic, the government’s response, and the safety or effectiveness of Health Canada-approved vaccines. Instead, the court only considered the best interests of the child, which was determined by factors such as the child’s needs, views or wants.
In this case, the child’s wish not to be vaccinated was taken into account, but given little weight. The court feared that this view was merely influenced by others. The court rejected the argument that a medical diagnosis of “possible” vaccine toxicity would affect the child’s needs. The doctor’s diagnosis was not final and was based on incomplete medical information. Therefore, the court was not convinced that the vaccine would affect the child’s health.
Even if the child was not particularly susceptible to the COVID-19 virus, vaccinating the child was in the best interests of the daughter, as the child could become infected with the COVID-19 virus, and it was in the best interests of the child not to contract the virus avoid, and the most effective method to avoid infection. Contamination with the COVID-19 virus at this time should be avoided by vaccination.
Although the courts in British Columbia have not weighed COVID-19 vaccines for children, they have consistently given the vaccinating parent the power to make decisions about vaccinating the child in accordance with recommendations from the Department of Health and the Department of Health. In MJT v DMD, 2012 BCSC 863 and GM v SS, 2012 BCSC 1491, the BC Supreme Court authorized the father to vaccinate his unvaccinated preschooler, despite the mother’s belief that pediatric vaccines contribute to autism in children. In both cases, the court preferred medical evidence to show that the benefit of the vaccination to the child outweighed the risk of side effects.
These cases show that Health Canada approved and health agency recommended vaccines are in a child’s best interests almost everywhere. Now that the Pfizer vaccine is approved for younger children and the BCCDC is recommending parents vaccinate their children to protect them, co-parents in BC should be prepared for courts to conclude that vaccination is in their best interests Child is.
The content of this article is intended to provide general guidance on the subject. Expert advice should be sought regarding your specific circumstances.