The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg has rejected complaints about the mandatory vaccination of children submitted by Czech parents. In the verdict, ECHR stated that the Czech Republic had not violated the parents’ right to private life by insisting on compulsory vaccination.
The court ruled on a total of six complaints, the first arriving in Strasbourg in 2013. In most cases, the objections concerned preschool facilities refusing to accept unvaccinated children.
The Grand Chamber of the ECHR adopted the verdict with a majority of 16 votes against one. The verdict is final.
The European Court of Human Rights found that mandatory vaccination, if involuntary, constitutes a violation of physical integrity guaranteed by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. At the same time, however, it acknowledged that Czechia’s decision to demand the vaccination of children “promotes a legitimate interest in the protection of the health and rights of others.”
“(The Court) notes that in the Czech Republic, the obligation to get vaccinated is strongly supported by health authorities,” the court stated. According to the ECHR, the objective is to protect the health of individuals and the population as a whole and, thus, fight against the trend of declining vaccination rates among children.
The first complaint against mandatory vaccination was filed with the ECHR in 2013 by Pavel Vavřička. In 2003, he refused to let his daughter and son get vaccinated against tetanus, polio, and hepatitis B. The regional public health office then fined him, and Vavřička turned to the Czech courts. The Constitutional Court ruled in 2011 that in justified cases, courts should refrain from fining or otherwise putting pressure on parents who refuse to vaccinate their children. However, it did not challenge mandatory vaccination itself. Other complaints concerned kindergartens that refused to admit children who had not been properly vaccinated.
The court in Strasbourg stated that the fine imposed on one of the parents was not disproportionate and called the kindergartens’ decision not to accept unvaccinated children a “preventive” rather than a “repressive” measure.
In the Czech Republic, two childhood vaccines are compulsory. The so-called Hexavaccine vaccinates against six diseases — polio, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, hepatitis B and diseases caused by the Haemophilus influenzae bacteria — while the MMR vaccine protects against measles, rubella and mumps.
Title image: In this Friday, Feb. 23, 2018 file photo, Dr. Roberto Ieraci vaccinates a child in Rome. Italian parents have more time before having to produce proof that their children have received 10 mandatory vaccinations. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, File)