ECtHR finds compulsory childhood vaccination not in violation of Article 8

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has ruled that compulsory vaccination for children is not in breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (right to private and family life).

In the Czech Republic, there is a duty to vaccinate children against nine diseases. Parents who do not vaccinate their children without good reason can be fined and non-vaccinated children are not accepted in nursery school.

The first applicant was fined as he refused to vaccinate his two children. The other four applicants were refused admission to nursery school.

The ECtHR stated that under previous case law, compulsory vaccination represented an interference with physical integrity and therefore could be an interference with the right to respect for private life as set out in Article 8.

The Court noted that the objective of the legislation on compulsory vaccination was to protect the public against diseases which pose a serious risk to health. This protection applied to both those vaccinated and those who could not be vaccinated for medical reasons. The government relied on a high number of people vaccinated to achieve ‘herd immunity’. The legislation on vaccination of children is strongly support by medical authorities in the Czech Republic. The vaccination programme was a way of protecting public health as well as protecting against any downwards trend in the vaccination of children.

The Court stated that the best interests of the children are of utter importance. Czech health policy was said to be in line with the best interest of the children as it sought to protect them against serious disease. The vaccinations against the nine diseases are also considered safe by the medical community. The Court found that the obligation to vaccinate children was proportionate to the aim of the Czech Republic to protect the public against serious diseases.

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