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Helsinki draws flak for vaccinating kids with only dad's approval

The mother filed a complaint about the matter with the parliamentary ombudsman.

Avaamaton MPR-rokote lähikuvassa.
The children were said to be travelling to a region experiencing a measles outbreak. Image: Jari Kovalainen / Yle

Deputy parliamentary ombudsman Maija Sakslin has rapped Helsinki city school health officials and clinics for allowing three children from the same family to be vaccinated based on permission from just one parent – the father.

In May 2018, the youngsters received the MPR vaccine, which provides protection against measles, mumps and German measles or rubella. At the time they were about to travel to a region in the grip of a measles outbreak.

Public health officials were aware of the mother’s opposition to vaccinations, and had discussed the matter with both parents. In moving ahead with the decision to vaccinate the youngsters, they stressed that it was in the children’s best interests. The parents had joint custody of the children.

The mother filed a complaint about the matter with the office of the parliamentary ombudsman.

In her ruling on the matter, the deputy parliamentary ombudsman said that under the circumstances, the children should not have been given the shots.

Childhood shots not compulsory in Finland

She acknowledged that current legislation on the matter is ambiguous but stressed that health officials need permission from both parents before a child can be vaccinated.

"Because health care and clinic professionals were aware of the guardians’ differing opinions and the procedure did not have the approval of the statutory authority, the children should not have been vaccinated," she said in the ruling.

Sakslin’s decision corresponds with a previous ruling by parliamentary ombudsman Petri Jääskeläinen in 2011.

In 2018, Yle News reported on the case of a father who was unable to ensure that his infant son was vaccinated because the child’s mother opposed vaccinations.

Childhood vaccinations in Finland are not compulsory, although vaccination coverage rates in some parts of the country are lower than the average.

Previous administrations have rejected calls to coerce families into inoculating kids using measures such as withholding benefits.

You can listen to our All Points North podcast on a measles scare in western Finland in late 2018 via this embedded player, Yle Areena, Spotify, iTunes or your normal pod player using the RSS feed.

Audio: Yle News

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