There has been no change to the law on consent to vaccinations for children in the United Kingdom, despite claims made online.
In a Facebook video viewed 47,000 times since mid-June, an unidentified man claims amendments were made in April to the Children Act 1989, which changed the law that relates to consent and vaccination. “From a 12-year-old to 15-year-old, they do not need an adult’s consent to take a vaccine in schools,” he said, later adding: “This is a new law they put in.” (here).
This person also claims that COVID-19 vaccines are experimental as they are undergoing clinical trials until 2023. This claim has previously been debunked by Reuters here .
There have also been no changes to the law that govern a child’s consent to vaccination. The legislation can be seen in full here .
The law pertaining to consent and vaccination depends on the age and competence of an individual (here).
For a child to be vaccinated, someone with parental responsibility such as a parent or guardian, or a local authority of someone subject to a care order, or the child themselves need to give consent, said Lucinda Ferguson, an associate professor of family law at the University of Oxford, who was speaking to Reuters via email.
From the age of 16, a person’s capacity to consent is presumed, according to section 8 of the Family Law Reform Act 1969 (here). Capacity to consent for those under 16 is decided based on whether an individual is deemed “Gillick competent” (here), (here).
Gillick competence refers to children who are judged to have sufficient understanding and intelligence to be able to fully understand – and therefore consent to – medical treatment or vaccination (here).
If a child is not deemed Gillick competent, this opens other avenues to consent.
“If everyone with parental responsibility (typically both parents) refuses to consent, the child is not capable of consenting, and is not subject to a care order, the vaccination cannot be administered to the child,” Ferguson said.
However, if the child is subject to a care order, and one or both parents oppose the vaccination being given, the local authority can consent “without a court order” (here).
Ferguson added: “If the child is not subject to a care order, and those with parental responsibility disagree on whether the child should be vaccinated, they need a court order because immunisation is considered to be one of those important decisions where one parent’s consent is not enough if the other parent opposes it” (here).
When a child is not “capable of consenting themselves” the local authority can override the one or both birth parents’ refusal “if the child is subject to a care order”.
“Where the child is not subject to a care order, the court can decide in favour of the parent in favour of consenting where the other parent wants to refuse consent,” Ferguson said.
At present, the UK is still considering whether to roll out the COVID-19 vaccine for children (here).
False. The laws of consent pertaining to children and vaccines did not change in April in Britain.
This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here.
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