In a decision rendered on July 1, 2021, the Haifa Family Court president, Judge Shelly Eisenberg, authorized a mother to vaccinate her two 15-year-old minors against the coronavirus despite their father’s objection.
According to the mother, the Ministry of Health had encouraged vaccination of minors ages 12–15 in view of the rise in infections in this age group and in an effort to ensure availability of the Pfizer vaccine to adolescents before its expected expiration. Both minors expressed their desire to be vaccinated because they interact with a large number of people in their daily sports activities.
The father, however, objected to the mother’s request, arguing that there had been inconclusive data on the efficacy of vaccinating adolescents. He also alleged that the percentage of vaccinated youth in Israel at the time—5% of youth eligible for the vaccine (as of July 1, 2021)—indicated a lack of public confidence in the vaccination of children 12–15 years old.
Under Israel’s Legal Competency and Guardianship Law, 5722-1962, both parents are the natural guardians of their minor children and are responsible for their welfare.
Rejecting the father’s claims, Eisenberg determined that there was urgency in vaccinating those wishing to be vaccinated and that no evidence of a link between vaccination and rare cases of inflammation of the heart (myocarditis and pericarditis) existed. Indeed, the state may not impose vaccinations on its citizens, Eisenberg held, but that in the current case, it was the mother who requested that her children be vaccinated. In the absence of mutual consent by both parents regarding health measures in relation to their children, the court may make a determination to protect their welfare.
Eisenberg further considered the wishes of the two 15-year-olds who had expressed their desire to be vaccinated and had conveyed their wishes to their legal representative. Finding them intelligent and mature, Eisenberg recognized that the minors had been active athletes, had participated in competitions, and had interacted with many other teenagers. She accepted their claims that the vaccine would “give them a sense of security to continue to engage in their sporting activities as well as to come into contact with their peers.”Eisenberg stated that the right of children to participate in the making of decisions in their affairs is enshrined in the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989, to which Israel is a signatory. She determined that the minors were capable of forming their own views and had been given an opportunity to be heard in accordance with the requirements under article 12 of the convention. Considering the minors’ past “disappointments from the relationship with the father,” especially when their wishes were in accord with their best interests as determined by the court, Eisenberg ordered that the mother be allowed to have her children vaccinated without the father’s consent.