High Court President Ms Justice Mary Irvine has issued a new guidance note regarding the vaccination of wards of court and intended wards of court for the COVID-19 virus.
The guidance note points out that vaccination of all wards of court against COVID-19 should proceed on the same basis as the delivery of the annual flu vaccine.
Unless an objection is notified, the ward’s treating clinician should decide, having regard to the ward’s medical history and a balancing of all relevant risks, whether or not the vaccine should be administered.
When a person is brought into wardship a committee is appointed to act on behalf of the ward.
The organisation where the ward is resident should inform the committee that the vaccine is to be administered, no later than two days before the proposed vaccination.
If the committee objects to the ward receiving the vaccine, that objection must be made to the organisation where the ward is resident, within seven days of notification of the intended vaccination.
It must be accompanied by medical opinion, or other material, demonstrating why it is not in the ward’s best interests that they receive the vaccine.
The ward’s treating clinician should then be asked to review any such medical opinion or documentation and decide what is in the ward’s best interests.
The committee will be notified of the clinician’s decision and, where the clinician recommends vaccination, unless an application is made to the court within seven days of notification of the decision, vaccination will proceed.
Where the ward or an intended ward objects to receiving the vaccine, the committee or the intended ward’s guardian ad litem should be notified
In light of the objection, the ward/intended ward’s treating clinician should be asked whether, in his/her opinion, the ward/intended ward is capable of making an informed decision to object to the administration of the vaccine.
If they are found not to have capacity to make such a decision, the clinician’s opinion must be notified to the ward and their committee/guardian ad litem in writing.
Such notification must advise the recipient that in default of an application to the court within seven days of receipt of that notification, vaccination will proceed.
If, following assessment, the clinician is satisfied that the ward/intended ward has capacity to object to the administration of the vaccine, the vaccine should not be administered.
In any case in which the refusal of a ward/intended ward to accept the vaccine could adversely impact on their placement, the matter should be listed before the court for directions.