Notifications

With experts predicting a bad flu season and reports of tragic deaths from influenza, it's no wonder worried parents are eager to ensure their children are vaccinated.

But what to do when one parent is opposed to the flu shot?

NIAID/Wikimedia

As user siensien wrote on Mumsnet, she's now “kicking herself” for missing the chance to get her children vaccinated for the flu at school. At first, she thought it wasn't necessary, as she didn't get the flu when she was younger, and the flu shot hasn't been around for long.

But the articles about flu deaths have her really worried. She wrote:

I'm a bit of an anxious person in general, especially when it comes to my children, and I've been up the past few nights worrying and worrying all day long now that it has been confirmed in my area.

The simple solution would be to get her children vaccinated. But there's a problem: her son's father (and her ex) is strongly opposed to the flu shot. Her ex says she is simply reacting to “scaremongering”:

I keep trying to get through to him with facts and stats and told him when the school phoned and everything, but he is not budging, just keeps shouting HE IS NOT TO GET IT. NO WAY etc on the phone.

This has left the mom in a difficult position. She wants to respect her ex's right to make decisions about their son and admits she would “hate it if it was the other way round.”

In addition to being uncomfortable with the idea of getting the vaccine without both parents' consent, she also knows it will lead to a nasty argument:

I think all hell will break loose with my ex if I do — we had the same situation with the MMR and eventually I paid hundreds for single jabs and just did it anyway he was livid for months — and I really don't want the fallout.

The boy is eight years old and the mom says that his father seemed fine with vaccines until their son was about one-year-old. That's when her ex declared his opposition to any more immunizations.

Though she says he's a good dad for the most part, the vaccine issue has become a sticking point. While she's willing to do research and talk to doctors about it, he has taken an intractable anti-vaccination position. She wrote:

There is no reasoning with him. He doesn't even listen, just talks over me, shouts, or hangs up. Apparently he told his mother it's because he doesn't know the exact ingredients and what is in the vaccines. My reasoning is that the [very] tiny risks from the vaccine are much more acceptable than the still-small-but-not-insignificant risks of becoming horribly ill from the flu.

And that's left her wondering whether she should ignore his wishes and get their son vaccinated over the father's objections. Though they ordinarily consult each other on big decisions about their child, this may be the exception:

I thought about getting it and not telling him, but then quickly put that out my head as it's unfair all round, especially on [our son] and potentially dangerous if his dad doesn't have the full facts when he has him all weekend.

In response to the mom's request for help, many commenters urged her to ignore the dad's wishes and get a flu shot for her son. One wrote:

Your priority has to be your son; if you think he is at risk from flu you have to protect him even if that means telling his father that you're doing it regardless of what he says. Your baby's doctor and all authorities would be on your side.

And a few saw no reason why she shouldn't do it behind her ex's back if necessary:

My [daughter's] father got all funny about vaccinations and flu things. I just got them done without telling him. Why do you have to tell him? You're allowed to make those kind of decisions for your son without your ex putting his nose in.

Some pointed out that her ex's wishes don't automatically override hers:

I've had similar arguments with my ex (though not over vaccines) and my position is I'm a parent and it's my responsibility to make the best, most well informed, decisions for my children that I can. If my ex wants to prevent me doing something that is for the medical benefit of my children, he can pay to take me to court and explain to a judge why his opinion is correct. [...] I will always listen to his opinions and take into account any new evidence he can provide, but the final decision while my kids are at my house is down to me

However, there were a few who believed the dad's veto meant the mom's hands are tied. They suggested she get the flu shot for herself and her daughter (from another relationship) in the hopes that it would help protect the boy from flu exposure.

One commenter pointed out that there could be legal repercussions if she gets the shot without the dad's consent:

If [...] you vaccinate the children without consent, and he chooses to take it back to court, whilst I doubt that you would have any changes to the current 50/50 care, they may change [...] the custody agreement. Also depending on how acrimonious a split it is, I’d imagine this would make it even worse for you. Ultimately I’d think very hard if this is in the best interests of everyone involved.

In the end, the mom was swayed by the advice of her family practitioner, who gave her some fact sheets to help persuade her ex to agree to the vaccine but ultimately said it was up to the mom.

After talking to the doctor, she was certain she wanted her son to have the flu shot, but gave up on the idea of talking her ex into it. She wrote:

“My plan now is not to tell him tonight in case he tries to stop it, but to take him tomorrow. [It] probably will have to be after school, and then call [my ex] on the way and say that the [doctor] called me again, I have given my consent and that's it.”