The parents of a 2 ½ year old boy (who had lived some time abroad) sought an injunction to prevent a local authority arranging for their child to receive the schedule of vaccinations recommended by NHS England. They had wanted their child to receive a bespoke programme of vaccinations instead which they had arranged privately. The child was the subject of an interim care order.

 Mr Justice Williams has released an approved Judgment in AB (Childhood Vaccination) [2021] EWHC 158 1 in which he refused the injunction, relying on LB Tower Hamlets and M, F and T (a child) [2020] EWHC 220; and Re H (A Child) (Parental Responsibility: Vaccination) [2020] EWCA Civ 664, [2020] 2 FLR 753.

This was one of the first cases to consider the Judgment of the Grand Chamber in the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Vavřička and Others v The Czech Republic nos. 47621/13 and 5 others – which concerned a statutory scheme (in the Czech Republic) which made vaccinations mandatory subject to a fine and exclusion of an unvaccinated child from nursery school.

Two passages in the injunction have caught the eye against the backdrop of debate about vaccination against COVID 19 in the UK.

Mr Justice Williams said:

“[35] The evidence would appear to establish that rubella is usually a mild condition and that it does not pose a significant direct risk to boys or to pre-pubescent girls, the significant risk that it poses is to pregnant girls and women where the condition can be responsible for miscarriages and significant birth defects. It is this risk which is addressed by the vaccination as the science establishes that the infection is generally caught by pregnant women from children. However, it also addresses the risks of complications arising in rubella. Rubella is part of the PHE programme for good reason; the personal benefit of not getting Rubella and the public health benefit but there is also a direct benefit to the child of not being in a position to infect another person particularly a pregnant woman. A child’s welfare is a broad concept which is not restricted to medical best interests. It is in addition to the particular benefits to him more broadly in AB’s best interests to play his role in public health.”

He added:

“[39] There is a welfare benefit to a child in being vaccinated which goes beyond the purely medical benefits. They are part of a communal response to the serious dangers posed by these diseases. There is a clear welfare benefit to being part of that communal response and to avoid the position where he become the cause of an infection in a vulnerable person.”

Martin Downs was instructed by Orbis Law for East Sussex County Council. Luisa Morelli represented the child and was instructed by Campbell Hooper and Co.