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Court orders father not to influence young daughters' views on safety of COVID-19 vaccines

Court orders father not to influence young daughters' views on safety of COVID-19 vaccines

A little girl holds on to her plushie while getting a vaccine shot on Dec 27, 2021. (Photo: CNA/Hanidah Amin)

SINGAPORE: A court has ordered the father of two girls aged seven and 13 not to influence their views on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines.

The order came with the court's dismissal of the father's application to bar his wife from getting their daughters vaccinated without his consent.

The couple are in the midst of divorce proceedings, according to the grounds of decision dated Feb 14 that CNA obtained on Wednesday (May 4).

The two daughters are Indian citizens who were in Singapore on student passes. The father had unilaterally cancelled the girls' passes to remain in Singapore after his wife served divorce papers on him.

NO LEGITIMATE REASONS

The judge noted that the father has an asymptomatic medical condition. According to the father's submissions, he weighed the pros and cons of getting the COVID-19 vaccine and chose to "err on the side of caution".

The man said that he was not against vaccines generally, and that his daughters had received all the compulsory child vaccinations required in India.

"This goes to show any medical concerns over vaccination only relate to the father himself and not to the children," said the judge.

"Whilst the father's own concern over vaccination is understandable, this has no material bearing to the children's vaccination as they have no known health conditions of their own."

The judge found that the father gave "no legitimate reason" for objecting to the COVID-19 vaccinations, and disagreed that the injunction the man sought would be in the interest of his children.

VACCINATION IS IN CHILDREN'S INTEREST

Noting that the paramount consideration was the welfare of the children, the judge found that vaccination was beneficial to and in the interest of the two girls.

The judge cited a recent decision involving a 16-year-old, which highlighted the Government's position that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and recommended for teens aged 12 and above.

That decision noted the recommendation of the expert committee on COVID-19, that all eligible people should receive the vaccine to attain as high a vaccination coverage among the population as possible. 

The decision also noted the developmental impact of COVID-19 restrictions on children due to isolation. The judge pointed out that these issues had in fact been raised by the father before.

The father previously said that as a result of his daughters' unvaccinated status, they were not allowed to enter malls or take part in recreational activities, which diminished their quality of life in Singapore.

"It would appear that by the present application, the husband's response to this concern would be to uproot the children back to India where there are no such measures," said the judge.

But the man had not shown how being unvaccinated and free to participate in all social activity, thereby "dramatically" increasing the risk of contracting COVID-19, was preferable to simply getting vaccinated, said the judge.

The judge added that no weight was placed on the father's arguments about various studies purporting to show the risks of COVID-19 vaccines, as these were not properly introduced in evidence.

ORDER NOT TO INFLUENCE CHILDREN

The father had asked for weight to be placed on his elder daughter's views, but the judge found that any views she expressed would have to be taken "with circumspection".

In the first place, the father's evidence did not show that the girl objected to vaccination or that she had the legal maturity to decide against taking the vaccine, said the judge.

The judge also took into account the evidence of the motherwho is represented by lawyers Kulvinder Kaur and Jessica Sam, that the girl's views on vaccination appeared to have been "influenced significantly".

In that regard, the judge agreed with the mother on an additional order to "ensure that the father does not unduly seek to influence the daughter's views on vaccination".

The father was ordered "not to tell, or suggest to, the children, directly or indirectly, that vaccines are untested, unsafe, ineffective, or that they are particularly at risk from vaccinations".

He was barred from letting any other person have such a discussion or make any such suggestion to his daughters, whether directly or indirectly.

He was also ordered "not to show the children movies, social media sites, websites, other online information, literature, or any other material that calls into question the safety or efficacy of vaccines, or permit any other person to do so".

The judge noted that the father's reason for his application was his belief that the mother wanted to vaccinate their children "out of a selfish desire" to force him to apply for passes for the girls to continue living in Singapore.

However, the judge said the present situation, in which the girls were unable to renew their student passes, was a result of the man's "unilateral and grave" actions.

"On the whole, I cannot see how vaccination of the children is a selfish desire on the mother's part," said the judge.

"Instead it appears more likely than not that the father's opposition to vaccination is a result of his own desire not to renew the children's passes so that he and/or the children would have no choice but to leave the jurisdiction."

Source: CNA/dv(rw)

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