ECHR rules compulsory vaccinations for children does not violate human rights

The European Court of Human Rights issued judgment on Thursday that mandatory vaccinations of children under the Czech Republic’s health policy do not violate Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights. The policy, mandated by section 46 of the Public Health Protection Act, requires long-term residents to undergo routine vaccinations covered by public health insurance. Section 50 of the Act further states that it could exclude unvaccinated children from pre-schools.

This case results from an evaluation of complaints initiated by several parents between 2013 to 2015. The parents had been fined by the government for not vaccinating their children, and some of the children were excluded from school until they obtained the required vaccinations. As a result of the penalties, the parents lodged individual complaints to the European Court of Human Rights, alleging the statutory duty of vaccination violated their right to private life provided under Article 8.

In addressing the complaint the Court ruled that the mandatory statute is necessary for a democratic society because vaccinations answer a “pressing social need” and is justified so long as it is “relevant and sufficient” and proportionate to a legitimate aim. In regard to the aim, the court further stated:

[T]he aim of the relevant legislation is to protect against diseases which may pose a serious risk to health. This refers both to those who receive the vaccinations concerned and those who cannot be vaccinated and are thus in a state of vulnerability, relying on the attainment of a high level of vaccination within society at large for protection against the contagious diseases in question. This objective corresponds to the aims of the protection of health and the protection of the rights of others, recognised by Article 8.

While the judgement does not explain whether the principles can be applied to Covid-19 vaccinations, ECHR legal expert Nicholas Hervieu stated that the judgment has put the idea of mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations on the table.