In the first decision of its kind in the Netherlands, a 12-year-old boy has been given permission by a court to be vaccinated immediately against Covid-19 – despite the opposition of his father.
The ruling comes as the country prepares to end social distancing rules from Saturday – more than 18 months after its first case of the virus was confirmed in the southern province of Tilburg on February 27th, 2020.
The youngster, who has not been named, went to court with the support of his mother, because, he said, he wanted to be able to visit his grandmother who is seriously ill with lung cancer.
He told judges in the northern city of Groningen on Thursday that without the jab he was worried he might accidentally infect his elderly relative and that she could potentially die as a result of that contact.
The boy’s parents are divorced, do not have cordial relations, and are divided over the issue of vaccination. However, both were present for the closed family court hearing, details of which were provided later by the court service.
In the court’s ruling, the presiding judge said that while children in general had fewer symptoms and tended to be less ill if they contracted the virus, there was, on the other hand, a real risk that they could be ill for some time or develop long Covid.
It was also the case, he said, that “the risk of infecting others is significantly lower with vaccinated people than with those who remain unvaccinated”.
In an additional decision, the judges said the boy was free to be vaccinated immediately – without waiting for a possible appeal by his father.
“In this case, the court finds that the importance of vaccination in the short term is greater than the importance of waiting for an appeal,” said the presiding judge.
The Netherlands introduced Covid-19 vaccinations for 12- to 17-year-olds in July. Only 17-year-olds, however, are allowed to make the decision for themselves without the involvement of their parents.
As the country abandons social distancing, the beneficial impact of the mass vaccination campaign is becoming clear.
According to the public health institute RIVM, of the 37,000 people who tested positive for the virus so far this month and whose vaccination status is known, 67 per cent were completely unprotected.
An additional safeguard will be introduced from Saturday in the form of the CoronaCheck phone app, which provides proof of vaccination or that one has had Covid-19 or received a recent negative test result for the disease. It will be obligatory at bars, restaurants and public events.