COVID-19 Vaccines for Kids? Court Confirms a “General Presumption” In Favour
With the vast majority of Canadians now having been immunized against the COVID-19 virus, and with government-imposed mandates around showing proof of full vaccination status for restaurants, entertainment venues, and certain indoor activities, the question of whether or not to get vaccinated has become a moot one, for most Canadian adults.
However, for some parents, the issue remains a live as it may relate to their offspring. While children under the age of 12 are not currently eligible for any of the commonly-distributed anti-COVID-19 vaccines, children above the age can receive a vaccine if they or their parents wish.
This means that for parents who are separated but do not see eye-to-eye on whether to vaccinate their eligible children, the issue can still be a contentious one, and they may still end up before the province’s Family Courts to get it resolved.
Yet when asked to settle disputes of this nature, Ontario courts have much greater clarity than some parents themselves. In a case called A.C. v. L.L., the court emphasized that – absent some very exceptional circumstances – it will be in a child’s best interests to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The decision arguably offers an important glimpse into the mindset of the Family Courts as a whole, as they consider case-after-case of parents disputing whether their under-aged children should receive the vaccine.
Ultimately, after considering all the facts, the court in the A.C. v. L.L. decision did grant the father’s request to let the children be vaccinated over the objections of the mother. In doing so, the court opined that there is a “general presumption” that it is in a child’s best interests to be vaccinated against COVID-19, where the child intends to attend school in person. This presumption can be displaced by the objecting parent, but only with what the court called “compelling evidence” that the child’s best interests dictated in favour of non-immunization.
In the clearest terms, the court added that it puts full faith in the government directives in this area, stating:
The responsible government authorities have all concluded that the COVID-19 vaccination is safe and effective for children ages 12-17 to prevent severe illness from COVID-19 and have encouraged eligible children to get vaccinated. These government and public health authorities are in a better position than the courts to consider the health benefits and risks to children of receiving the COVID-19 vaccination. Absent compelling evidence to the contrary, it is in the best interest of an eligible child to be vaccinated.
This analysis and conclusion is consistent with the approach taken by other courts addressing vaccinations prior to COVID-19 ….
The issue is not, as argued by the respondent mother, whether obtaining the vaccination is “crucial” to in-person attendance. That is not the legal test. The question is whether it is in the best interests of the child. Given the government statements above, there can be no dispute that, as a general presumption, it is in the best interest of eligible children to get vaccinated before they attend school in person.[Emphasis added.]
Well, that seems clear enough.
For the full text of the decision, see:
A.C. v. L.L., 2021 ONSC 6530 (CanLII), <https://canlii.ca/t/jjcln>