Disabled teenager to get Covid vaccine against mother's wishes, judge rules

Court heard the boy, who is in foster care, had told his dedicated social worker he wanted the vaccine so he could go out to town and the cinema again
Disabled teenager to get Covid vaccine against mother's wishes, judge rules

Judge Larkin said: 'The tenor and thrust of all medical data and evidence is that people with underlying needs have greater need to be vaccinated than anyone else. I have no difficulty in granting the order that he receive the vaccine.'

A judge has given the go ahead for a Covid-19 vaccine to be administered to a disabled 15-year-old boy against the wishes of the boy’s mother.

At the Family Law Court, Judge Mary Larkin has used a provision in the Child Care Act to allow Tusla to proceed with the vaccination of the teenager.

Solicitor for the Tusla Muiris Gavin told Judge Larkin the boy’s mother was opposed to him being vaccinated.

Judge Larkin granted the order to Tusla under Section 47 of the Childcare Act after the boy's GP in a letter stated that due to his disabilities the boy “is at risk of serious and potentially fatal complications should he contract the Covid-19 infection”.

The court heard the boy had told his dedicated social worker he wanted the vaccine so he could go out to town and the cinema again.

Judge Larkin said that at the boy’s age "the voice of the child” in the court proceedings has to trump the view of others with a different view.

Judge Larkin said: “The tenor and thrust of all medical data and evidence is that people with underlying needs have greater need to be vaccinated than anyone else. I have no difficulty in granting the order that he receive the vaccine.” 

 The teenager has been in full-time care of Tusla since he was aged four, after the agency secured a full care order in 2010.

The teenager has since lived with foster carers.

Social worker's testimony

The boy’s allocated social worker told Judge Larkin the teenager wanted the Covid-19 vaccine.

The social worker told the court: “He is currently not vaccinated and life has become extremely limited for him since March 2020."

She said at a meeting with the boy in September “when I asked him does he want the Covid 19 vaccine he replied ‘yes’ and when I asked why he told me 'because I want to go to the cinema and go into town’".

The social worker said the teenager had a range of medical issues and had a mild to moderate intellectual disability.

Asked by Judge Larkin did she believe the boy receiving the Covid-19 vaccine was in the boy’s best interests, the social worker replied: “I do, Judge, because he is at home and rarely goes out unless he is in a car or goes to his respite carers three afternoons a week.” 

She added: “His whole life is centred around the house and it has affected his mental health… He gets very angry with his foster carers because he finds his life very limited.” 

GP's letter

The social worker said a more recent letter from a different GP in the same medical practice said the teenager's medical problems “render him more susceptible at developing complications should be contract Covid 19”.

The social worker said the boy’s two foster carers both want him to receive the Covid-19 vaccine.

In response to queries from Judge Larkin, the social worker said the boy does not see his biological parents.

She said the boy’s father is the only one who is in contact with him.

The social worker said the father sends him a Christmas card and a gift of money at Christmas time.

She said: "The boy decided back in 2009 that he didn’t want to see his father – seeing his father was frightening for him."

Mr Gavin said he was in contact with the boy’s mother’s solicitor who was not able to get in contact with the mother before court but that her last communication was that she was opposed to her son receiving the vaccine.

Mr Gavin said the woman’s solicitor had no instructions for the case.

Judge Larkin said the child was in the care of Tusla and decisions for this child are to be made by Tusla.

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