In an effort to achieve herd immunity and provide protection against COVID-19, vaccination drives are underway not only for adults but also for children ages 12 and below. In the United States, Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been approved for use in children, and many parents has been taking their kids to get their shots across the U.S. States.
But with vaccination being a major medical decision, some parents may not be comfortable with it. This becomes an issue in co-parenting situations where the co-parents can’t agree on whether or not to get their child vaccinated against COVID-19.
In this scenario, the first thing to establish is the type of decision-making authority that has been allocated to the parents.
Joint Decision Making
The decision of whether or not to vaccinate a child falls under medical decision-making. If both parents have been granted joint decision-making authority in this arena, they are required by law to reach an agreement about the child’s vaccination or non-vaccination.
If co-parents don’t agree, they need to seek relief in court. In a similar case from 2021, the court ruled that the co-parents will need to seek a modification of medical decision-making authority with the court and get permission to have the child vaccinated despite the objection of the other co-parent.
Sole Decision Making
If one parent has been granted sole decision-making authority, that parent has the ability to make the final decision on whether or not to get the child vaccinated. Because they have sole authority, the other parent will not be able to refute it, unless they get a court order to go in another direction. The same remedy as in a joint decision-making scenario would apply.
The Remedy You Can Seek With the Court
If the co-parents can’t agree on whether or not to give their child the COVID-19 vaccine, they can file a motion to modify medical decision-making with the court. However, this process is very strict and the Court has stringent standards that have to be met when modifying decision-making authority.
According to Colorado laws, if a decision-making authority has already been allocated by the court, the ruling cannot be disturbed absent a showing of endangerment. That means that the parent seeking to modify medical decision-making carries the burden of proof of demonstrating that getting or not getting the COVID-19 vaccine would present harm to the child.
In the 2021 benchmark case, the parent presented experts and doctors to show the dangers of not getting the child vaccinated. This ultimately helped them win their case and get their decision-making authorities modified.
Ultimately, the judge makes the decision and determines if the element of endangerment is strong enough to warrant a modification of medical decision-making.