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Co-Parenting During COVID: Vaccination Disputes

What Age Groups Are Eligible for the COVID Vaccine?

Recently, the Pfizer- COVID vaccine was made available to children 12 to 15 (previously, the Pfizer vaccine was only available to those who were 16 and older). It is expected that the Moderna COVID vaccine will also soon be open to the same age group. In the wake of the CDC announcement, the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) has officially encouraged parents and families to vaccinate their children who fall into this newly available age group.

Relatedly, and of particular importance to parents, is the CDC's revised vaccine administration guidelines to allow the COVID vaccine to be received simultaneously with other vaccinations, regardless of timing. Previously, individuals wishing to acquire a COVID vaccine could only do so if they had not received any other immunizations within the previous two weeks.

This is particularly important for children whose parents want them to get the COVID vaccine. Children receive several vaccines from birth through their eighteenth year. Now that the CDC has approved the Pfizer vaccine for children 12+, many children can now receive the COVID vaccine, and it will not interfere with their normal vaccine schedule.

What to Do When You Want Your Child Vaccinated, but Your Co-Parent Doesn't

Compared to regular childhood vaccines, there has been a rise in vaccine hesitancy with the COVID vaccine specifically. Many people are delaying or entirely abstaining from getting the vaccine, despite all reports and assurances from the CDC that the available vaccines are highly effective and safe. But, what happens when one parent wants their child to receive the COVID vaccine and the other doesn't?

Disputes between divorced parents are common, especially when it comes to making important medical decisions for their children. If you are in this position, there are a few things you can do. First and foremost, you should review your custody order and parenting plan to see if any provisions for medical decisions or vaccinations are outlined. In many situations, one parent will be given the final say in medical or health care decisions. However, when one parent is not given ultimate decision-making power, the parents will have to work together to come to a resolution.

If appropriate, you may wish to involve your child in the decision. Many teens have their own opinions on whether they would like to receive the vaccine, and it may benefit families to involve them in the decision-making process. You should also work to understand your co-parent's position, and if possible, try to alleviate their concerns.

In situations where you cannot reach an agreement, you should consult with a lawyer. It's not uncommon to feel like you have nowhere to turn when dealing with this type of dispute with your co-parent, but a skilled attorney can be an invaluable resource. Not only can your lawyer use their experience to help you resolve your dispute, but they can also represent you should you have to take the issue to court.

What About Other Childhood Vaccines?

As the COVID vaccine becomes more readily available to children, childhood vaccines, in general, have become a hot topic with parents. However, despite widespread acceptance, there are still a significant number of parents who are commonly described as vaccine-hesitant or anti-vaccination when it comes to their children. A study from the American Journal of Health Behavior (as provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics) has identified five attitudes towards immunization exhibited by parents.

Those attitudes and the percentage of parents who demonstrate them are:

  • Immunization Advocates – 33%
  • Go Along to Get Alongs – 26%
  • Health Advocate – 25%
  • Fence-sitters – 13%
  • Worrieds – 3%

Of these categories, only the Immunization Advocates and Go Along to Get Alongs are described as totally agreeing that vaccines are necessary and safe. After that, each group demonstrates some level of hesitancy regarding the necessity and safety of vaccines. For example, Health Advocates are described as agreeing that vaccines are necessary but are not confident in their safety. Meanwhile, fence-sitters only "slightly agree" that vaccines are safe or necessary, and Worrieds "slightly disagree that vaccines are necessary and strongly disagree that vaccines are safe."

This shows that approximately 41% of parents have questions about the safety and necessity of childhood vaccines. However, despite this large percentage, the AAP notes that most parents will still choose to vaccinate their children, despite their concerns.

What to Do If Your Co-Parent Disagrees with You About Vaccinating Your Children

If you and your co-parent cant agree regarding vaccinating your children, the first thing you should do is look to your custody agreement. In some cases, one parent has been designated the ultimate decision-maker regarding medical decisions like vaccinations. In others, parents may outline provisions specifically regarding vaccinations in their parenting plan. If you do not find this information here, and you and your co-parent fail to agree, you should reach out to an attorney. An experienced lawyer, like ours at Hope Law Firm, can help you understand your legal options, and should you have to take your matter to court, can represent you.

To discuss your case with an experienced lawyer, contact our law firm to schedule a consultation.