When divorced parents disagree about whether a child should receive a COVID-19 vaccination, who decides whether a child will be vaccinated or not? The case law on vaccinations in general and COVID-19 related school issues may give us some insight, although no cases have been decided in Ontario on the issue of COVID-19 vaccinations for children just yet.
Generally, a parent who has sole custody or sole decision making gets to make decisions on major medical issues, including vaccinations. The courts generally favour the custodial parent’s decision absent compelling evidence that the decision is not in the child’s best interests.
However, it is important to note that the Ontario courts also tend to support vaccinations in children, unless there is some evidence to show that the vaccine is not in the best interests of the child, like where a child has an allergy to a component of the vaccine in question. The court will need medical evidence from the parent objecting who is seeking to rely on the assertion that there are health risks to the child in question.
The COVID-19 vaccination has not yet been approved for children in Canada. So far, in COVID-19 related custody disputes, including disputes about whether children should attend school in-person or remotely, the courts have generally deferred to public health guidelines because government authorities, with the benefit of advice from medical experts, are in a better position to assess the potential risks and take necessary measures to limit the spread of the virus.