An unvaccinated father in New Brunswick, Canada, lost custody of his three children, one of which is a 10-year-old immunocompromised child, according to reports from the CBC.
The father presented research to the judge that he believed questioned the safety and efficacy of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, but the judge ruled against it.
“His own anecdotal research on such a highly specialized topic carries little to no weight in the overall analysis when measured against the sound medical advice of our public health officials,” wrote Justice Nathalie Godbout of the Court of Queen’s Bench.
The order allows the father to interact with the children over Zoom and reevaluate the sentencing if he does get vaccinated, but the mother can overrule his lack of parental consent to get her children vaccinated, according to the ruling, CBC reports.
For weeks, protesters opposed to vaccine mandates and other restrictions have held rallies in cities across Canada.
More children across the world are testing positive for the coronavirus. The most recent wave of the virus is driven by the omicron variant, which research suggests causes less severe disease but is more transmissible. Even with the new variant, kids are still far less likely than adults to be hospitalized or die from COVID-19.
In a report last month by the World Health Organization, experts recommended that even if children have less severe symptoms for COVID, they should still get vaccinated to avoid disruptions to their education. They recommended that children who have possible comorbidities get vaccinated and boosted as soon as possible to reduce risk.
Children who have diabetes, Down Syndrome or cardiac, lung and kidney diseases are at a much higher risk of severe COVID-19, according to the WHO report.
This isn’t the first case that parents have struggled in custody battles over vaccination.
In August 2021, a judge in Chicago barred Rebecca Firlit, the mother of an 11-year-old boy, from seeing her son under partial parental custody because she is not vaccinated against COVID-19.
Firlit appealed the decision, claiming the judge was placing his views onto her, and it was later reversed.
“I’ve had adverse reactions to vaccines in the past and was advised not to get vaccinated by my doctor. It poses a risk,” Firlit told the Chicago Sun-Times. “I was confused because (the hearing) was just supposed to be about expenses and child support. I asked him what it had to do with the hearing, and he said, ‘I am the judge, and I make the decisions for your case.’ ”
Firlit’s lawyer, Annette Fernholz, told several Chicago media outlets that Firlit and her former husband have been divorced for seven years and that the ex-husband did not address the lack of vaccination as a problem. The two share custody.
The father’s attorney, Jeffery M. Leving, said he supported the judge’s decision. “There are children who have died because of COVID,” Leving told The Washington Post. “I think every child should be safe. And I agree that the mother should be vaccinated.”