As of February 28, 2021, the Alberta government reported that 235,508 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the province with 88,145 Albertans being fully immunized. While we are in the early stages of the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out, there is a sense of cautious optimism that a return to normalcy is in the not to distant future. This optimism is further heightened by Health Canada’s recent approval of a further COVID-19 vaccine by Astra-Zeneca, which is expected to help further aid in availability and in turn reduce community transmission.
When Canadians have been surveyed, Albertan’s at this point are the least likely out of all Canadians to get one of the COVID-19 vaccines as they become available to the public. The implications of not getting the COVID-19 vaccine have wide implications whether in the workplace or at home with your family.
In recent years, provincial law makers across Canada have strived to create legislation that balances individual and parental rights to choose to vaccinate or not, with the established medical evidence of the benefits of herd immunity provided when widespread immunization is present in communities.
Historical immunization legislation adopted by Provinces has been drafted in the context of diseases such as rubella and measles. While immunizations for these diseases are supported by the general Canadian population, the provincial governments in drafting legislation to combat the COVID-19 pandemic face a less accepted mass adoption of vaccines. For that reason, it is difficult to say what provincial legislatures will do in the future, when it comes to childhood vaccination of COVID-19 specifically.
Many parents remain divided on whether to vaccinate their children. Currently, the very recently developed vaccines approved within the last few months by Health Canada are approved for Children under the age of 16. It is the expectation that COVID-19 vaccines will be approved and in turn become available for children under the age of 16 in the future. To this end, all parents, and especially those separated / divorced parents now co-parenting their children, will have to resolve any competing viewpoints on whether to vaccinate their children against COVID-19.
What happens if parents disagree on vaccinating against COVID-19?
When adjudicating decision making disputes between parents, the Court will ask what is in the best interest of the child? When parents are not able to agree on the best interests of the child, the Court is tasked with determining which party has the most compelling scientific evidence. Thus far, Courts have tended to favour the medical opinions and recommendations of our public health institutions over the concerns raised by those promoting alternative public health measures. Family cases that have been heard in Canadian courts over the last year when parents were faced with either choosing to home (online) school their children or return them into the public school system provides useful insight into the fact driven analysis that takes place. If provincial governments across Canada decide to make COVID-19 vaccinations for children under the age of 16 optional, we can expect to see more COVID-19 related disputes in the future and court cases on this matter.
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