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Who Has the Right to Choose Whether Kids Get Vaccinated?

If you’re like most parents, your child’s health is your top priority. You want to make sure they have the best chance possible to remain happy and healthy for a long, long time. As a parent, you usually have the right to make medical decisions for your child, so you can accomplish just that.

However, if you have a custody agreement, this may not be true for you. Some parents lose the right to make their children’s medical decisions during custody battles. In the unique medical world of the pandemic, this is a significant problem. Just one example of the issues this causes: if you don’t have the right to make medical choices for your kids, you can’t decide whether they should receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

With the recent emergency approval of the Pfizer vaccine for kids 5 and older, it’s critical to know whether you have the right to make this decision for your child. Here’s what you need to know about child custody, medical decisions, and what you can do about your child’s vaccination status if you have a custody order.

Child Custody and Medical Decisions

The right to make medical choices for your kids is part of the rights and responsibilities granted by legal custody. Oregon acknowledges two types of custody: physical and legal. Physical custody determines where the child lives. Legal custody covers just about everything else, as it’s the right to make decisions about how the child is raised.

For instance, legal custody includes the right to decide:

  • Where the child goes to school
  • Where they get medical care
  • How they’re raised religiously
  • What extracurriculars they pursue
  • What cultural activities they take part in

Both types of custody can be joint, meaning shared between parents, or sole, meaning just one parent has it. While Oregon prefers to offer joint custody to parents, if either parent requests sole legal custody, the court must choose which parent will have sole custody. State legislation requires this to prevent a parent who doesn’t want to share custody from complicating legal decisions down the road.

What does this mean for vaccinations? It means that you only have the right to decide whether to vaccinate your child if you have joint or sole custody for them. If you don’t have custody, you legally don’t have the right to make medical decisions. You can’t decide whether your child will or won’t receive the vaccines any more than you can choose which school or doctor’s office they attend.

Oregon’s Vaccination Laws

When it comes to vaccinations, though, parental wishes aren’t the only forces in play. Especially for vaccines like the COVID-19 series, states, institutions, and children themselves also have input. Vaccine mandates can override parental preferences.

For instance, in Oregon, schools, extracurricular activities, and religious institutions can all require vaccinations for attendance. Children who are not vaccinated may not be allowed to visit these places. As a result, vaccine-hesitant parents may be forced to vaccinate their children or pull them out of school entirely.

Your kids can also make choices about the vaccine. In Oregon, minors 15 and older can consent to medical care like vaccinations on their own without a parent’s approval. If your children are at least 15, they can choose whether or not to get the vaccine themselves, and legal custody matter less.

What to Do if You Disagree with Your Child’s Vaccination Status

The COVID-19 vaccines are contentious. If you’re trying to co-parent with an ex-partner, they can become a significant source of tension. However, they don’t have to be. If the pair of you disagree with your child’s vaccination status, you can resolve it in different ways depending on your custody situation.

If You Have Full Legal Custody

The parent with sole legal custody has the right to make medical decisions for their child, including vaccinations. If you’re that parent, then you can decide without your co-parent’s approval. While it may be considered good manners to hear their opinion, the choice you make is final as long as you retain sole custody.

If You Share Legal Custody

Joint legal custody means you and your co-parent both have the right to make medical decisions for your children. Many custody agreements require parents to agree on a course of treatment for their children. You may or may not be able to have your child vaccinated without your co-parent’s consent. It’s best to consult with a family law attorney in this situation to make sure you’re not risking a lawsuit if you vaccinate your child.

If You Don’t Have Legal Custody

If you don’t have custody of your child, then things are more complicated. You have a few potential options, but they take some work.

First, you can try to talk to your co-parent about why you disagree with their choices. If you want to ensure your child is vaccinated, you can show them resources about the safety of the vaccine and the risks of child COVID-19 infections. If your co-parent is simply vaccine-hesitant, this can go a long way toward convincing them.

However, if they continue to refuse to vaccinate your children, you may need to take legal action. You can consult with a family law attorney to discuss fighting for joint or sole custody, so you can protect your children’s health.

Finally, if your child is 15 or older, you can put the decision in their hands. Let them know they’re old enough to get the vaccine and how they can get it. They can make a choice themselves, and your spouse cannot legally prevent them.

Maintain Your Right to Protect Your Children’s Health

If you care about your children, it’s only natural that you have opinions about their medical care. If you’re concerned that you don’t have the right to vaccinate your child, you should reach out for help. A qualified attorney will help you understand your current custody arrangement and what rights it gives you.

If it turns out you don’t have the right to make medical choices for your kids, an attorney can still help. Get in touch today to learn how you can take action and fight the right to protect your children’s health. It could change their lives forever.