Vaccination dispute, separated parents & the best interests of the child

Arranzio & Moss [2015] FamCA 544 includes reference to divergent views between a mother and father as to the vaccination of a child aged about 6 years.

The mother sought orders at [201] to  to restrain the father from having the child vaccinated without her written authorisation. The court noted however that the mother accepted under cross-examination that, irrespective of any scientific evidence put before her, she will never consent to the child being vaccinated, consistent with her position since very soon after the child was born. The mother said she had  a conscientious objection to vaccination on the basis of her research and her comparison of risk: [202].

Medical evidence was provided as to any alleged underlying health issues placing the child at a higher risk of sustaining an adverse reaction from vaccinations. The court made somewhat adverse comment about the evidence of two doctors retained by the mother, noting that both relied on certain (untested) information provided by the mother. One doctors failure to openly acknowledge the existence of her previously held anti-vaccination views casts significant doubt upon her impartiality or independence in the sense in which that term is understood when referring to those purporting to hold expert qualifications: [210].

Having considered the evidence, the court considered the child’s best interests at [258] – [259]:

….the consequences for the child of contracting a disease against which he may be vaccinated are so significant that they significantly weigh against the grant of an injunction prohibiting the administration of vaccine. Whilst it may be that the risk of the child contracting diseases against which he can be vaccinated is minimised (as a consequence of vaccines having been administered to other children in the Australian community), such risk is affected in an indeterminate way by the presence in this country of travellers from overseas. While ever the child remains un-vaccinated, he remains at risk of contracting these diseases; in contrast, if he is immunised, the presence of a person with such a disease in Australia will be entirely irrelevant to him. Having regard to the above, I am not persuaded that an order restraining the father from having the child vaccinated is appropriate for the child’s welfare or in his best interests.

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