Update: Alberta Court Weighs In On Co-Parenting Decisions Regarding COVID Vaccinations

Photo of a child sitting on a bench, legs dangling in the air

By Chantal M. Cattermole

On November 19th, 2021 Health Canada authorized the use of the Pfizer vaccine in children aged 5 to 11. Clark Wilson shared a blog post analyzing how courts have treated vaccine-related disagreements between co-parents. The blog post can be found here.

Last week, in T.R.B. v. K.W.P.B., 2021 ABQB 997 the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta weighed in. Here the court found that vaccination served the best interest of two children, a ten-year-old and a twelve-year-old, by protecting their physical health, fostering their psychological and emotional needs by allowing them to participate in more activities, and imparting important social lessons to them about maintaining and protecting their health for the sake of themselves and those around them. Because the father had shared vaccine misinformation with the children, which caused stress and anxiety for them, he was also ordered not to discuss the vaccine or the pandemic generally with the children.

The children were otherwise vaccinated and received all their childhood immunizations and an annual flu vaccination with the consent of both parents. However, the father would not consent to the children receiving the COVID-19 vaccine and wished to delay the vaccine until further evidence of its safety became available. He believed the vaccine for children was still in an experimental stage.

Consistent with the earlier COVID-19 vaccine decisions outlined in our initial blog post, the Court took judicial notice of the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic, the danger of contracting COVID-19 for children, and the safety and efficacy of vaccines based on Health Canada approvals, and concluded that the vaccine was not experimental. The Court gave little weight to the documentation provided by the Canadian Covid Care Alliance in part because it was not a peer-reviewed, scientific publication.

As always, the Court considered the best interest of the children in its decision. The children’s family physician provided a letter explaining that the children were healthy and did not suffer from any medical condition that would prevent them from receiving the vaccine. The Court accepted that the vaccination will limit the risk of transmission and allow the children to participate in more activities, which are important for their mental and emotional health and well-being. Ultimately, it concluded that vaccination was in their best interest and made an order authorizing the mother to vaccinate the children.

In what appears to be a first, the Court also ordered the father not to discuss, or permit any third party to discuss, the issue of the COVID-19 vaccine or COVID-19 generally with the children. The father had shared “age-inappropriate vaccine information” and vaccine misinformation with the children, which caused them stress and anxiety around vaccines and the pandemic.

While no BC court has weighed in on COVID-19 vaccines for children, it is becoming increasingly likely that, if asked, it will make an order in favour of vaccines for children.