Judge rules for baby vaccination to avoid meningitis despite mother's opposition

A baby should be vaccinated against infections which can lead to meningitis despite his mother's opposition, a High Court judge has ruled.

The seven-month-old boy's mother said the Haemophilus Influenza Type b (Hib) vaccine and the pneumococcal conjugate (PCV) vaccine could cause adverse reactions.

But social services staff said vaccination was in the youngster's best interests - and Mr Justice MacDonald agreed.

The judge has delivered a ruling after analysing competing arguments at a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London.

He said the little boy could not be identified.

Bosses at Barnet Council in London had asked for permission to arrange for the youngster to be vaccinated.

Mr Justice MacDonald said evidence showed that Haemophilus influenza Type b was a serious bacterial infection which usually attacked children under five.

He said that before the introduction of the Hib vaccine, the Hib infection was the leading cause of bacterial meningitis.

Pneumococcal disease comprised a range of bacterial infections, said the judge.

Evidence showed that children under two were particularly vulnerable and germs could cause pneumonia, septicaemia and meningitis.

The woman said she had older children who had needed hospital treatment after suffering adverse reactions.

But social services bosses said the consequences of not vaccinating could be grave.

They said medical evidence showed that vaccination was plainly in the little boy's best interests.

Mr Justice MacDonald ruled against the mother.

"Whilst the mother submits that risk of infection is low, and whilst the expert evidence supports that contention to a certain extent, it is plain on the evidence before the court that the consequences of that risk becoming manifest are grave indeed, with the meningitis in particular being a rapidly progressive infection, hard to diagnose and treat in time to prevent permanent damage or even death," he said.

"I am satisfied that it is appropriate in this case to make a declaration under the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court that it is in (the baby's) best interests for the local authority to be given permission to arrange for him to receive the Hib vaccine and the PCV vaccine."

The judge said he was not making a decision on whether immunisation was "a good thing or bad thing generally".

He added: "I emphasise that the court is not saying anything about the merits of vaccination more widely and does not in any way seek to dictate how this issue should be approached in other situations.

"This judgment is concerned solely with an evaluation of one child's best interests based on the very particular circumstances of this case."