Children's COVID vaccinations: Can children consent without their parents' agreement?
Who needs to provide consent?
Consent for medical any medical treatment or intervention for children is governed by Parental Responsibility in most situations. This means that medical decisions (like many other decisions) need to be made with the full consent of both parents or guardians.
Sometimes, those with Parental Responsibility do not agree. In this situation, if the parents cannot find a way to resolve the issue a Judge will be asked to determine the answer. There has been a great deal of case law about this kind of situation often arising when parents have differing religious or cultural views about a medical procedure or intervention. This issue is also very live at the moment as parents are being asked to consent to their teenage children having COVID vaccines at school, with some parents having very different views to each other.
In addition to parents or guardians disagreeing, it is also possible that a child may disagree with one or both of their parents about a medical decision. In circumstances where a child fully understands what is involved in a proposed procedure, such as vaccination, they can legally give their own consent. This is known as ‘Gillick competence’.
The government have confirmed that if no consent from a parent has been received for the COVID vaccine, but the child wants to be vaccinated and is judged to be Gillick competent by the healthcare professional, the child can still be vaccinated and the parent cannot overrule the decision of a Gillick competent child.
These issues are ones that can be discussed in family mediation, hopefully enabling the parents to come to a decision together about the best course of action. Child Inclusive Mediation can also be used, ensuring that a child has a voice regarding consent and an opportunity to explain to both parents why they feel the way they do, showing their competence to make the decision where appropriate.