Children's Health

Parents in legal tussle over whether child should be vaccinated

A young Australian girl is at the center of a bitter tug-of-war over whether she should be vaccinated.

Her father sought an order in the Federal Magistrates Court to have her immunized, but the mother argued the national vaccination schedule was "potentially harmful," The Sunday Telegraph reported.

Although the court found in favor of the six-year-old's dad -- ordering she be immunized for measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and chicken pox -- the mum successfully appealed in the Family Court late last year.

The parents, who split soon after the girl was born in 2005, will now square off in a rehearing in the Federal Magistrates Court later this year.

The mother had given evidence she would allow her daughter to decide whether or not she would be immunized for the human papillomavirus at age 11 or 12.

"This is an abrogation of her parental responsibility. At that age, [the child] is unlikely to have a proper appreciation of the risks, or of the benefits," Federal Court Justice David Dunkley said at the time.

Controversial anti-vaccination group the Australian Vaccination Network has launched a fundraising appeal to help non-vaccinating parents fight the courts.

"Such proceedings could very well result in orders being made providing for the young children to receive the full spectrum of vaccines in a catch-up schedule," said AVN founder Meryl Dorey, who is seeking $50,000 to help partners fight vaccination.

Pediatrician Robert Booy, of the National Centre for Immunisation Research, said it was a shame the child's health was the issue being fought over as a result of misinformation.

"Immunization has been proved time and time again to be effective," he said.

Vaccination is not compulsory, however from July 1 families who fail to vaccinate children in line with the four-year immunization schedule will lose family payments totaling $2,115 over three years. The parents of 23,405 children have already lost subsidies and rebates for failing to vaccinate children.

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