Parenting Disagreements About Vaccinations
Certain decisions by parents need to be made jointly. For example, what school your child attends and now in 2022, whether your child should receive the Covid-19 vaccinations. If there is disagreement, guardians can apply under section 46R of the Care of Children Act (the Act), to have a Judge make the decision.
This issue has arisen both in the present day and in pre-Covid times, prompting parents to take disagreements around vaccinations to Court. Most cases tend to take the approach that vaccinations should be administered, unless a child has individual medical concerns which means it is inappropriate for them to be vaccinated. For example, in GF v Chief Executive of Oranga Tamariki, the Court directed that a four year old girl was to receive the standard childhood vaccinations against her Father’s wishes. Similarly, the Court in Chief Executive of Oranga Tamariki v JA ruled against the wishes of a father of four in directing that they receive all their immunisations, including the Covid-19 vaccinations.
The common denominator in these cases is the individualised approach taken. This means that the particular child is assessed in order to determine whether that child requires their vaccinations. The Court in Oranga Tamariki v JA clearly stated that if these assessments do not identify anything more than minor side effects, then the child is to be vaccinated.
Interestingly, one of the most recent decisions to come through the Courts takes a somewhat different approach. Judge Stephen Coyle ruled against a mother applying to have her 12 year old son placed in her care until he received his two Covid-19 vaccinations. Judge Coyle said he did not believe it was in the boy’s best interests and welfare to be given the vaccination against his wishes. He was persuaded by ensuring the boy was not just exposed to the “mainstream” narrative, but rather a plurality of views in order to make his own decision.
As children aged 5 - 11 years old are now eligible to be vaccinated, it is likely we will continue to see vaccination-related disagreements make their way through the Courts. What we can expect is for Judges to make these decisions with the welfare and best interests of the child as the first and paramount decision, as required by the Act.
If you have any questions or concerns at all regarding vaccination or other disagreements between parents, the Family Law team at Schnauer & Co Lawyers are here to assist. Please give us a call on 09 486 0177 or email us at email@example.com or via our website inquiry portal.
 GF v Chief Executive of Oranga Tamariki – Minstry for Children  NZFC 8449
 Chief Executive of Oranga Tamariki – Minstry for Children v JA  NZFC 3068