Attorneys need to ensure they are acting on best interests for Covid vaccine

The Covid-19 vaccine is currently being rolled out across the country, with the government identifying key vulnerability groups to vaccinate first. This includes many people who lack mental capacity to understand what Covid-19 is and whether or not they should have the vaccination. This depends on a number of factors, including their health, beliefs and values. If, therefore you are acting on behalf of such an individual as their attorney named in a registered Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) it is important that you understand what is involved in making a best interest decision for the incapacitated individual. This must be in accordance with Section 4 The Mental Capacity Act, involving all those responsible with the care, health and welfare of the individual concerned working/agreeing together. 

Whilst the vaccine is optional for those who have capacity,  when making a best interest decision on behalf of someone else, all issues must be taken into account. This includes the person’s past and present wishes and feelings,  in so far as is possible in relation to the decision to be made.  All or any pros and cons must be noted, discussed and carefully considered. You must try to separate your own views when making a crucial best interest decision.

When making your decision, it is crucial to understand the governments’ advice identifying vulnerable people as per the vaccine prioritisation plan.  This is as per the recommendations made by experts at the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. It deliberately prioritises those at highest risk of catching the disease and suffering serious complications or dying from Covid-19.

A healthcare professional can only administer the vaccine if you consent and agree to have this. If you are a welfare attorney therefore, you need to give consent for the individual who is unable to make the decisions themselves. 

There is a required field to make a note in the person’s medical records that the attorney consents to the vaccine being given and that a best interests decision  has been made to vaccinate. This also notes the points raised in the discussions that have taken place with the donor or the attorney  giving consent on someone’s behalf. If there is a disagreement about whether or not to vaccinate then an application to the Court of Protection may be needed to determine this issue.

Here’s a few suggestions what you can do in advance of when you are contacted for your decision in relation to the vaccine. 

  • If the person lives in a care facility, tell the facility they must contact you for a decision in advance
  • If the person lives alone, contact the local vaccination team to ensure you are contacted for a decision before the vaccine is given

If you would like some more information about Lasting Powers of Attorney, or you are caring for a vulnerable individual at this time, contact the Private Client team at Downs Solicitors to see how we can help.