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Covid vaccination dispute ends in Family Court

A dispute over vaccinating children led to a Masterton Family Court order. PHOTO/STOCK.ADOBE.COM

Kids given choice in their vaccination

A dispute over vaccinating children against covid-19 dragged a divided family to court earlier this year.

In a recently released decision, Masterton Family Court Judge Alison McLeod judged in favour of a mother who wanted her children to be vaccinated.

The parents had a custody arrangement for their 12- and 14-year-olds since November 2020 and were divided over whether they should receive the vaccine.

The mother’s original application to have full authority over her children’s immunisation decisions was declined in late February 2022.

The application was placed on seven days’ notice, and the children were appointed a lawyer.

On March 4, their father was ordered to appear in court to resolve the dispute.

The father, who acted for himself in the March 8 hearing, filed an affidavit stating he did not support the children receiving the vaccination “until more information had become available”.

He said he would support the children if they still wished to be vaccinated next year.

However, in her judgement, Judge McLeod said discussions with the father had made it clear that he could not “in good moral conscience support the children receiving the covid-19 vaccination”.

Judge McLeod said that the father did not want to take responsibility or liability for any consequences should the children be vaccinated.

In delivering her judgement, Judge McLeod said her start point considered what was in the best interest and welfare of “these two young people”.

She said the Care of Children Act provided the children with the right and opportunity to express their views.

She said the 12-year-old was “very clear” in his desire to be vaccinated as his present status precluded him from sports and social activities.

“There is no question that both of his parents have given him information about the pros and cons of receiving the vaccination.”

Judge McLeod said the Ministry of Health considered the 12-year-old of an age where he could give consent.

She said the 14-year-old also wished to be vaccinated after receiving independent information from a general practitioner.

“She is of an age where she does not require her parents’ consent to receive a medical procedure of this nature.

“There is no question in my mind that it is in their interest and welfare that they receive the covid-19 vaccination predominantly because of the views that they have expressed.”

Judge McLeod issued an order granting the mother full authority to make decisions regarding the children’s vaccination.

She said the mother reassured her that she would support the children if they changed their minds and said the mother’s application was appropriate as the parents were “unable to resolve” the issue as joint guardians.

While it was Judge McLeod’s preference not to have issued an order, she said the father had not prolonged the proceedings.

As a result, no costs were awarded against either party.

In recent months, there had been similar cases across New Zealand.

In April, a Family Court in Northland suspended an unvaccinated father’s visiting rights with his children until the children had been vaccinated, and in February, a judge in Bay of Plenty ruled it was up to a child to decide whether he wanted to be vaccinated after his mother advocated to have him removed from his “anti-vax” father until he had received a double dose.

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