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Children – order for vaccination against COVID-19…

…evidence of public health researcher preferred

In Palange & Kalhoun [2022] FedCFamC2F 149 (16 February 2022), Judge B Smith heard an application for a 10-year-old child to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The court directed each parent to file any expert evidence that they sought to rely upon. The mother filed an affidavit of ‘Dr E’, a public health researcher in the area of vaccination, who had a PhD in public health amongst other qualifications. There was no other expert evidence.

The mother also sought to rely upon publications by the World Health Organisation and the Center for Disease Control Prevention.

The court said (from [68]):

“ … [E]ach party has given evidence of what various bodies have said, and what is contained in the pamphlets provided, to seek to prove the truth of those statements. (…)

[81] Dr E … has a PhD on the topic on which she has given her opinion. She currently works in the field in which she has given her opinion and her role is to study the area on which she gave an opinion. There was no challenge to Dr E’s expertise. (…)

[83] … I am satisfied that Dr E’s opinion evidence sufficiently satisfies the criteria for admissibility pursuant to s79 Evidence Act (…)

[109] … I do not consider it appropriate to give any weight to either of [the parties’] opinions on the medical and public health issues associated with COVID-19 infection or vaccination. (…)

[111] … I also give no weight to the pamphlets tendered by the mother.

[112] … I give substantial weight to the unchallenged and uncontested evidence of Dr E who is a highly qualified expert. (…)

[154] My role is to consider and weigh the relative risks … taking into account the evidence before me, and … to make a decision as to what course of action I believe is in his best interests. …

[155] … I am satisfied that it is in the child’s best interests to be vaccinated against COVID-19 … ”

Craig Nicol and Keleigh Robinson are co-editors of The Family Law Book. Both are accredited specialists in family law (Queensland and Victoria, respectively). The Family Law Book is a one-volume loose-leaf and online family law service (thefamilylawbook.com.au).

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