If parents can't agree on their child's vaccination, this is what happens

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The Covid-19 vaccination programme opened to youngsters aged 12 to 17 on 20 October.
The Covid-19 vaccination programme opened to youngsters aged 12 to 17 on 20 October.

As the Covid-19 vaccination roll-out expands to include children aged 12 to 17 this week, it's no surprise that parents are finding themselves at odds over whether or not their child should get the shot.

While it is important to note that children over the age of 12 do not need their parent's permission to get vaccinated, it's also obvious that some children will need their parents' assistance to get them to a vaccination centre, as well as other support to make this happen. 

Children might also be influenced by one parent's belief system, over the other's.

Parent24 received an email from a parent this week, asking the inevitable question: if one parent is for and one parent is against, who decides if their child gets vaccinated?

The anonymous reader described the situation as 'toxic', explaining that the child in question's parents are divorced.

In this case, one parent got the Covid-19 vaccination themselves and they are dead set on their minor children getting it too. But the children, aged 13 and 14, as well as their other parent, do not want it.

We approached the experts at Adams & Adams, a legal firm who helped clarify how this scenario could play out.

Mthokozisi Maphumulo, Senior Associate at Adams & Adams, told us that the views, opinions and objections of all parties (the child and two parents) will all need to be considered. 

"The dispute will then be referred to the Head of Legal of the relevant health institution. The Legal Head may then petition the court to make a ruling or refer the matter to the Minister of Health to make a determination," he said.

Depending on the arrangement in terms of the rights and the responsibilities each parent have in respect of the child, one parent may have an upper hand over the other. 

To clarify, Maphumulo explained that there are two possible situations, and in the case set out by the reader above, if a child and one parent do not want to go for vaccination and one parent wants the child to be vaccinated, then the parent who wants the child to get vaccinated can take legal action. This means that the court will make a determination. 

In this instance, there is no health facility involved.

In the other scenario, where a child and one parent do want to have the child vaccinated, the other parent may object to the vaccination of the child. 

"The relevant healthcare giver (who should administer the vaccine) will then have to refer this dispute to the Head of Legal at that institution/facility," Maphumulo explained. 

The Head of Legal will consider the opinions, views and reasons of all three parties (the child and the two parents) and will take this dispute to court to make a ruling, or if more relevant, refer this dispute to the Minister of Health, who will have to decide on the way forward. 

"In this case, the child will not vaccinate until there is a decision by the court or Minister of Health," Maphumulo said. 

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