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B.C. dad wins court battle to immunize sons; mother upset with ruling

B.C. dad wins court battle to immunize sons; mother upset with ruling
A Salmon Arm court has ruled two brothers should be vaccinated after their father took their mother to court over the issue. Reporter Megan Turcato has more on this story and what it might mean for other parents who disagree about immunization.

A B.C. father of two young boys now has the right to have them immunized following a year-long court battle with the children’s mother regarding vaccinations.

In late December, in Salmon Arm, a B.C. judge ruled that the father should have sole responsibility for medical and dental treatments for his two young sons.

The father and mother ended their relationship approximately two-and-a-half years ago. The father went to court after the mother refused consent for certain vaccinations and opposed dental x-rays, resulting in extensive dental work for the older boy.

READ MORE: Interior measles vaccination rates still below target following catch-up campaign

During court proceedings, the mother offered a report from Dr. Toni Lynn Bark, an American who describes herself as an expert in the study of adverse vaccine reactions. In her judgment, Stella Frame says Bark admits the field is unrecognized by medical professionals.

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Judge Frame instead accepted most of the material provided by the father, including two B.C. Supreme Court rulings. She said the father must keep the mother informed but is now responsible for all the boys’ medical and dental treatments.

Frame’s decision, delivered at the end of December, highlights the ongoing battle between those who support childhood vaccinations against infectious diseases, such as measles, mumps and whooping cough, and those who question vaccine safety.

On Thursday, Global News contacted the father and mother. For privacy concerns, Global News isn’t disclosing any names.

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Asked about the case, the father said he and his former partner “never came to an agreement on which way we were going to go [regarding vaccinations].

“The communication for the vaccination side of it, there was none. And it came to a point where I said to myself, ‘I’d like to get them vaccinated.’”

The father said he talked to Interior Health and was informed that the mother had placed a notice on the children stating she was against vaccinations.

“[Interior Health] would not vaccinate without either A) us agreeing to get them both vaccinated in writing, or B) have a court order,” he said.

“Once I found that out, I knew we weren’t going to agree, so I knew the only route was going to be going to court and seeing if we could settle.”

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The mother, in an emotional call, said she’s “not OK” with the ruling.

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The mother said “both parents should do it together,” while also telling Global News she did not have legal representation and asked twice to have the case adjourned so she could find a lawyer.

Importance of getting a flu shot
Importance of getting a flu shot

The mother said she fears she’s being made out to be a negligent parent.

“We have two different opinions,” she told Global News. “He feels he’s protecting his boys one way and I feel I’m protecting our boys the other way.

“Like it said in the court case, I’m not opposed. I just want to be overly cautious and this whole war on anti (vaccine) … it’s ridiculous.

“I feel it’s the biggest form of bullying that’s going on right now.”

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“Why don’t people do all these tests just to make absolutely sure that there’s not going to be a problem and do preservative-free vaccines? Things can go wrong.”

Global News asked if she plans to appeal the decision, but was told she’s not at liberty to discuss this at this time.

In rejecting the mother’s submission of Bark’s report and the doctor’s qualification as an expert in what is called vaccine adversomics, Frame sides with public health officials, writing “the current best evidence is that vaccination is preferable to non-vaccination.”

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“It is difficult to know whether this is junk science or a recognized emerging field,” Frame wrote of Bark’s report on adversomics, adding that the document sounds more “like a conspiracy theory” as it is presented.

Mandatory immunization reporting begins
Mandatory immunization reporting begins

Frame takes special aim at the report’s claim that targeted infectious diseases pose a low risk to the population, while vaccine trials produce a high number of adverse effects.

“One of the diseases that (Bark) claimed is very low risk to contract is measles. That is simply not the case,” Frame wrote.

Her judgment quotes from a 2012 B.C. Supreme Court decision examining the question of immunization. The ruling relied on expert Dr. David Scheifele, a leading B.C. pediatrician specializing in childhood diseases.

“If overall vaccination rates slip, infections previously held at bay can return to cause outbreaks among susceptible children and adults,” Scheifele testified, adding that measles or chickenpox infections are often worse in unvaccinated teens or adults.

In giving the father sole control of his boys’ medical and dental needs, Frame says both are healthy and active.

They are also not among a small group of patients who should not be vaccinated due to weakened immune systems, illness or other issues, she added.

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Vaccination of the majority is required in order to protect those who cannot be vaccinated, wrote Frame.

“Any adverse reaction the person may have from the vaccine is largely outweighed by the risk of contracting the targeted disease.”

The father added his former wife is a great mother to their children, and that they’re always safe, but that “the biggest thing I wanted out of this was to get them vaccinated.”

The father said he was somewhat surprised by the court granting him medical responsibility, stating he originally thought about applying for that but chose not to upon legal advice.

“I feel as a parent, having joint custody, that my view on (vaccinations) should have been taken into account as well as hers,” he said. “Really, if you’re an anti-vaxxer and you say something to Interior Health, nothing will be done.

“I think that’s completely backwards. I think if you don’t want to have them vaccinated, you should have to fight for that. You shouldn’t have to fight to have them vaccinated.”

The father plans on having the children vaccinated soon, while the mother said she doesn’t know what’s going to happen.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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