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Vaccination and learning disabilities

The Court of Protection have recently published a decision in respect of the administration of the Covid vaccination to a 31 year old adult with a learning disability, who could not make the decision for himself. The case was put before the Court as a result of a dispute between the NHS team who wished to vaccinate and his father who objected.

The NHS team were all of the opinion that it was in the best interest of the young adult to have the vaccination. The father objected to the vaccination being given to his son for a number of reasons. Whilst he had no objections to the vaccination itself he did not feel it was the right time for his son to have the vaccination.

As you can appreciate these cases are always difficult and this is the reason why the Court of Protection is involved.

The Court of Protection found that it was in the young adult's interest to have both parts of the vaccination but stipulated that no force (within the terms of the Mental Capacity Act) could be used to administer the vaccination.

In making their decision the Court referred to the Mental Capacity Act and the tests set down in Section 4 relating to the best interests. It was not possible to ascertain whether the young adult wanted to have the vaccination, what his opinion was on vaccinations or his wishes in relation to vaccination. His medical, social and psychological needs were considered by experts and the Court. Personal factors were taken into account such as him living in a care home, his age and medical history, the definition of clinically vulnerable as opposed to clinically extremely vulnerable and his ability to comply with social distancing and hygiene measures.

The Mental Capacity Act is very clear on the factors which need to be considered when applying the best interest test and these always focus around trying to stand in the shoes of the individual who the decision relates to. Making a best interest decision is not straightforward and considerable evidence was placed before the Court in this case to help them reach a conclusion.

It is therefore important to note that the Court will intervene where it is not possible for all parties to agree what is in the best interests of an individual. Many questions are being asked by families with adults with impaired capacity whether it is right for their child to receive the vaccination. If you want to read the discussion of the decision as you think it may be relevant to you click the link below.


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