European Court for Human Rights: Mandatory Vaccines Are Consitutional

Six families in Europe — one of them from the Czech Republic — field suit in the European Court of Human Rights claiming that mandatory vaccinations for children were a violation of the families’ privacy and basic human rights. The European Court for Human Rights has disagreed. According to NPR:

A Czech man had challenged his country’s vaccine requirement for young children, after being fined for refusing to have his son and daughter vaccinated against tetanus, hepatitis B and polio. The plaintiff, Pavel Vavřička, said the law infringed on his family’s right to a private life. Five other families filed similar suits, after their children were denied admission to preschools or nurseries.

The human rights court agreed that vaccine obligations place a burden on an individual, but it added that the societal benefits outweigh that burden.



Calling vaccines “one of the most successful and cost-effective health interventions” known to medicine, the court noted that the dynamics of herd immunity make it important to achieve a high rate of vaccination.

The inability of some children to be vaccinated for medical reasons, the court said, makes it more important to reach “a very high vaccination rate” to protect against contagious diseases.



In addition to ruling on privacy grounds, the court also rejected the argument from several of the plaintiffs that the EU’s guarantee of freedom of religion and belief protects their position against the vaccines.

European Court Backs Mandatory Vaccinations Laws For Children” – National Public Radio

If this ruling reminds you of something, it is probably because the legal thinking that backs it dates back to at least Jacobson v Massachusetts, when the United States Supreme Court also agreed that vaccination was one of those things that are necessary for society even if it is a burden on an individual. However, something that is often misinterpreted in the Jacobson decision is that a person can be forcefully vaccinated. That is not the case. A fine can be levied if they refuse to comply, but they cannot — or should not — be vaccinated by force. As with Jacobson, the families in the Czech Republic faced fines for failure to vaccinate, but the children would not be vaccinated by force.

Below is an interesting video explaining the Jacobson decision and how it resonated in other cases.

Author: René F. Najera, DrPH

I am the editor of the History of Vaccines site, an online project by the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. All opinions expressed on these blog posts are not necessarily those of the College or any of my employers. Check out my professional profile on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/renenajera Feel free to follow me on Twitter: @EpiRen