Update – To Vaccinate Your Child or Not: Taking a Shot at Reducing the Risk of COVID-19
This is an update to an article originally published in our December 2, 2020 issue of the Weekly Wright Report. You can read it here.
In November of 2020, news of vaccinations on the horizon broke. Their effectiveness has proven to be as promised, and as I wrote back then, it would probably not be long until trials for children would begin. In fact, so far, the trials on children in the 12 to 15 age range have been reported as 100% effective. And trials on younger children have begun or will begin shortly. Moreover, pregnant women have been advised that the negative effects of the vaccine far outweigh the bad outcomes of contracting COVID-19 during pregnancy. Thus far, there seem to be no ill effects on fetuses, and newborn children of moms who survived the virus have the antibodies associated with having been infected. Maryland’s Governor Hogan just announced that all children 16 year old and older are eligible to sign up for the vaccine and appointments will be forthcoming. All good news!
Now that it is just a matter of time when it is likely that all children will be eligible for the vaccination, it is time for co-parents to have the conversation regarding whether you plan on taking advantage of inoculating your children. Will that conversation throw a wrench in your co-parenting? If you anticipate pushback from your child’s other parent, then this is a good time to start a conversation about protecting your child from this virus once the vaccine is made available to children, if that is your desire. What If the two of you cannot agree? What are your remedies?
As you can imagine, as is true in most situations, it depends. First, it depends upon who has legal custody: you, your co-parent, or if you share joint legal custody. If you have sole legal custody, the inquiry ends there. This is one of those decisions that is covered by the legal custody doctrine and you alone can make the decision regarding whether your child will receive the vaccine.
But under a joint legal custody regime, two parents must agree, unless one or the other of them is given tie-breaking authority. In some cases, parents divide up the responsibility of who gets to make the final decision regarding decisions for healthcare, education or religion. In that case, the parent with healthcare decision-making essentially has sole custody as to healthcare decisions. But if you do not have tiebreaking authority or are not the healthcare decision maker, then going first to mediation to flush out the reasons your co-parent is reluctant to agree with you may be helpful. Going through these reasons with a neutral third party will hopefully allow each of you to understand the other’s position and decide what is in the best interest of your children. If mediation is unsuccessful, unfortunately, the only alternative thereafter, if there is no agreement, is to litigate the issue.
If you must go to court, each of you will be able to share with a judge why you believe or don’t believe vaccination is in your child’s best interest. If your child is high risk because of asthma or diabetes or some other health condition, be prepared with medical documentation. Also, if you are the parent that normally takes care of all health care needs of the children, be sure to put on evidence regarding the division of parenting duties. Objections by the other parent will have to be plausible and well-developed to support their position. In the end, a judge will listen to both of you and make a decision based on the evidence, their own life experience, and the reasons put forth by each party, considering the best interest of the children above all else.
If you find yourself with the need to discuss this or any other family law issue, feel free to contact me at 410.659.1398 or reach out on email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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