Baby should be vaccinated against infections that can lead to meningitis despite mother's opposition, judge rules
The seven-month-old boy's mother said the Haemophilus Influenza Type b (Hib) vaccine and the pneumococcal conjugate (PCV) vaccine could cause adverse reactions CREDIT: DAVID CHESKIN/PA WIRE
3 FEBRUARY 2017 • 11:57AM
Ababy should be vaccinated against infections that can lead to meningitis despite his mother's opposition, a High Court judge has ruled.
The seven-month-old boy's mother said the Haemophilus Influenza Type b (Hib) vaccine and the pneumococcal conjugate (PCV) vaccine could cause adverse reactions.
But social services staff argued the vaccinations were in the youngster's best interests because it would give him the best chance of protection against life-threatening diseases such as bacterial meningitis, pneumonia and septicaemia.
Mr Justice MacDonald delivered a ruling in favour of the authorities after analysing competing arguments at a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London.
Mr Justice MacDonald delivered a ruling in favour of the authorities after analysing competing arguments at a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in LondonCREDIT: ANDREW MATTHEWS/PA WIRE
Bosses at Barnet Council in London had asked for permission to arrange for the boy, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, to be vaccinated.
Mr Justice MacDonald said evidence showed that Haemophilus Influenza Type b was a serious bacterial infection, which usually attacked children under five.
He said that before the introduction of the Hib vaccine, the Hib infection was the leading cause of bacterial meningitis. Evidence showed that children under two were particularly vulnerable.
The woman said she had older children who had needed hospital treatment after suffering adverse reactions, including a swollen leg, ear infection and rash.
But social services bosses said the consequences of not vaccinating could be grave. Dr Paul de Keyser, a consultant paediatrician, said one in every 20 children with Hib meningitis dies while many others suffer long-term problems such as hearing loss, seizures and learning disabilities.
I emphasise that the court is not saying anything about the merits of vaccination more widelyMr Justice MacDonald
Mr Justice MacDonald ruled against the mother, as he said he was "not satisfied" that the allergic reactions she alluded to with her other children had occurred.
"Whilst the mother submits that risk of infection is low, and whilst the expert evidence supports that contention to a certain extent, it is plain on the evidence before the court that the consequences of that risk becoming manifest are grave indeed, with the meningitis in particular being a rapidly progressive infection, hard to diagnose and treat in time to prevent permanent damage or even death," he said.
"I am satisfied that it is appropriate in this case to make a declaration under the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court that it is in (the baby's) best interests for the local authority to be given permission to arrange for him to receive the Hib vaccine and the PCV vaccine."
The judge said he was not making a decision on whether immunisation was "a good thing or bad thing generally".
He added: "I emphasise that the court is not saying anything about the merits of vaccination more widely and does not in any way seek to dictate how this issue should be approached in other situations.
"This judgment is concerned solely with an evaluation of one child's best interests based on the very particular circumstances of this case."