Many separated parents have been struggling with conflicting opinions over parenting decisions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic such as whether or not to send their children to school or daycare, how many contacts to have in each household and whether or not recreational travel is on the table.
With a COVID-19 vaccine on the horizon, issues may start to arise between separated and divorced parents regarding whether or not to vaccinate their child. There have been recent breakthroughs in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine with human trials showing more than 90% efficacy in two prominent candidates, one from Pfizer and one from Moderna. Once a COVID-19 vaccine becomes widely available to the public, parents will have to decide if their child will receive it. Many parents will not hesitate to vaccinate their child against the virus but some parents may be hesitant for a variety of reasons from skepticism about the safety of the vaccine to whether or not the benefits outweigh the risks.
In situations where parents are unable to agree, they may turn to the courts for guidance. In a recent Ontario case, Tarkowski v. Lemieux 2020 ONCJ 280, separated parents had differing views on vaccinating their child against COVID-19 once a vaccine becomes available. Justice Penny Jones compelled the parents to consult with a medical professional to help them come to a decision and ultimately granted the father final decision-making power in the event the mother refused to attend the consultation or consent to vaccinating the child after receiving advice from the child’s doctor. This decision was based on a number of factors, in particular, the history of vaccination disputes between the mother and father since the child’s infancy. Cases like this will help set a precedent for similar court applications down the road as Canada and the rest of the world inch closer to a widespread vaccination for COVID-19.
Deborah A. Todd