Court Says Child Welfare Agency Cannot Vaccinate Children In State Custody Without Parental Consent
“Immunizations do not qualify as emergency care. No vaccine cures a disease,” Zedler said.
His amendment was adopted in a 74-58 vote, something Wu said would set a “dangerous precedent.” Under current law, biological parents have the final say as to whether their child gets vaccinated. HB 39 tentatively passed the House in a 120-15 vote.
The state Supreme Court ventured into the area of child inoculations Friday, ruling that the state cannot vaccinate neglected children placed in temporary state custody if the parents object.
The court did not address the efficacy of vaccinations. Rather, the unanimous decision by seven justices turned narrowly on the definition of the words “medical care” in a state law authorizing the Department of Children and Families to look after the health needs of children committed to its custody.
The department argued to the court that vaccinations fall within its authority to give medical care to children in its custody because vaccinations ”mitigate” against the possibility of contracting a disease. The justices, however, agreed with the parents, who argued that the common meaning meaning of “medical treatment” permits the state to administer emergency care without parental consent only for immediate health problems.
“If there is no emergency, the state cannot intervene over the objection of parents,” said attorney Benjamin M. Wattenmaker, of the Hartford firm Feiner Wolfson, who represented the parents.
The DCF said it was disappointed by the decision, and that it will seek to amend the law to allow it to vaccinate children, who can be in temporary custody for extended periods
“We continue to believe in the wisdom of authorizing the Commissioner to vaccinate children in her care,” a department spokesman said in a prepared statement.
The dispute arose after police in Rocky Hill were called in April 2016 to break up a fight between the unidentified parents of the children, then aged 1 and 2. The parents were arrested on disorderly conduct charges and the police learned that the family had been living in a van for months while traveling between Florida, North Carolina, Colorado, New York and Connecticut.
A social worker described the children as filthy, covered with bruises and smelling of urine. The department took temporary custody of the children — they remain in temporary state care — and the mother authorized a medical evaluation, which showed no vaccinations.
The parents said they objected, based on religious belief, to the department’s policy of routine vaccination for common childhood diseases. They moved in court to block vaccinations.
A Superior Court judge ruled for the state and authorized vaccinations, but was reversed by the Supreme Court Friday.
Wattenmaker said the children have not been vaccinated.