Can a Parent be Ordered to Immunise a Child?

Posted on September 13th, 2011

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By Vivien Carty

Vivien Carty is a Solicitor at Mullane & Lindsay in Newcastle and specialises in our Family, Relationship & Matrimonial Law team.

There is no compulsion for children to be immunised inAustralia, other than in circumstances where a Court orders immunisation.  Sometimes parents are unable to agree on whether their child should be immunised.  Where an Application is made under the Family Law Act for an Order in relation to immunisation of a child the Court, having regard to the best interests of the child in the particular case, may order that the child be immunised.

The Court in weighing up whether or not to order that a child be immunised will have regard to expert medical evidence.   It may take into account relevant evidence including, for example, information published by the Department of Health & Aging as to the risks and benefits of immunisation.

A recent decision of the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia assessed that on the evidence in that case, the risk to the child of suffering a significant reaction to immunisation was extremely remote.  The subject child was a healthy child. On the evidence available adverse reaction occurred very rarely and probably less than 1 in 100,000 cases.

The Court found that the risk of the child contracting some of the diseases preventable by the immunisations was also extremely remote.  The Court considered the impact on the child of not being able to visit her father’s house if she were not immunised for whooping cough due to possible risk to a young baby in the father’s household as well as the risk that the child might come into contact with the father’s pregnant wife, and create risk for a foetus, if the child was not immunised against, and subsequently contracted, rubella

In balancing the risk ratio the court decided that it would be in the child’s best interest if she was immunised for measles, mumps, rubella diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough) and also human papillomarvirus.

By being immunised the child would not need to be withdrawn from school, or from visits to her father and his wife who had a young baby and might in future have another. The child would also have the benefit of protection against cervical cancer in the future.

Vivien Carty is a Solicitor at Mullane & Lindsay, and practises extensively in Family, Relationship and Matrimonial Law. If you require any assistance in this area please contact Vivien Carty to arrange a consultation or contact our Newcastle office.

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