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The right to respect for family life, consent, minors and Gillick competence

23 September 2021
Volume 30 · Issue 17


Richard Griffith, Senior Lecturer in Health Law at Swansea University, discusses the statement made by the UK vaccines minister that healthy 12–15-year-olds could override their parents' decision on coronavirus vaccination


At the time of press, there has been increasing speculation that the UK chief medical officers will recommend that the Government should offer the coronavirus vaccination to those in the 12-15-year age group. This has prompted the Government's vaccines minister to say that, where competent, vaccination will go in favour of what the minor child decides (Elgot, 2021). Parent groups have responded by arguing that to proceed in the face of parental objection would be wrong and a breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to a private and family life, home and correspondence.

There is no doubt that a key barrier generally to immunisation in this age group is the reliance on parental consent before proceeding. The vaccines minister appears to be arguing that this barrier can be overcome by taking consent from the child under the rule in Gillick (Gillick v West Norfolk and Wisbech AHA [1986]).

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