Can the Court decide if P should have the COVID-19 vaccine?

In the recent case of E (Vaccine) [2021] EWCOP 7, the issue at hand was whether P should receive a vaccination for COVID-19.

By way of background, P is 80 years old, has been diagnosed with dementia and schizophrenia, and is a care home resident.

On 8 January 2021, P’s accredited legal representative was informed by the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham that she was to be offered a vaccination against COVID-19 on 11 January 2021. P’s son raised objections to this via email, and therefore the vaccination on 11 January did not go ahead.

As such, an application was made by P’s legal representative, pursuant to S15 Mental Capacity Act (2005), to obtain a declaration stating that it would be lawful and in P’s best interests for her to receive the vaccine at the next available date.

In a video call with P’s GP on 19 January 2021, P was asked whether she remembered being informed of Coronavirus and the dangers of it, to which P responded she did not. When asked if she wanted to receive the vaccination, P stated that she wanted ‘whatever was best for me’.

P’s son, as per his objections raised when P was initially offered the vaccine, did not share this viewpoint, and raised concerns as to the efficacy of the vaccine, and whether sufficient testing had been carried out.

It was concluded that P did not have the capacity to understand the nature or transmission of Coronavirus, or to determine whether she should receive the vaccine. Furthermore, it was decided that given the fact that the care home she resided in had several recent positive cases of Coronavirus, taking into account P’s age, medical conditions and her statement on the video call with the GP, that it was in her best interests for her to be vaccinated, and for her to receive the vaccine as soon as practicable.

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