WELLINGTON — A New Zealand court on Wednesday took temporary custody of a sick infant whose parents blocked life-saving heart surgery because potential blood donors may be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Auckland High Court ordered 6-month-old "Baby W" to be placed under partial guardianship -- allowing an urgent operation to correct a heart disorder known as pulmonary valve stenosis to go ahead.
The baby's parents had blocked the procedure on the grounds that any blood transfused could have come from a donor jabbed with an mRNA vaccine.
"The overriding issue is whether the proposed treatment is in (the baby's) best interests," the court said in a statement.
The child is now under the medical "guardianship of the Court" until "completion of his surgery" and recovery, by the end of January at the latest.
The parents will remain custodians "for all other purposes," and will be "informed at all reasonable times of the nature and progress of Baby W's condition and treatment," the ruling stated.
The case has gripped New Zealand and underscored the potency of vaccine misinformation.
Health New Zealand spokesperson Mike Shepherd said it was "a difficult situation for all involved".
"The decision to make an application like this to the court is always made with the best interests of the child in mind."
The baby is being treated at Auckland's Starship Children's Hospital.
'A REALLY UNUSUAL CASE'
After the verdict, vocal anti-vaccine campaigner Liz Gunn told a small crowd of supporters to pressure Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to somehow reverse the decision.
"Jacinda, this is at your feet," she said, appearing close to tears. "Beg them to show some humanity in this country, which we were once so proud of and of which I am now so ashamed."
Health authorities had rejected the parents' request for unvaccinated blood, arguing it was impractical and unnecessary.
The family claims to have dozens of non-vaccinated donors lined up.
New Zealand's blood service does not make a distinction between donations from those vaccinated or unvaccinated against COVID, as there is no extra risk from using vaccinated blood.
"This is a really unusual case where the parents want better treatment for their child than the state is offering," Sue Grey, lawyer for the parents, said last month.
"It's gone down this path because we have a government and a blood bank... (who) are not willing to make these services available.
"Not only are they not offering those services, they are saying: 'We know best what's good for your baby and we want you to do it our way.'"