European Court of Human Rights / screenshot of NPR
European countries can legally demand child vaccinations, the European Court of Human Rights ruled on Thursday. The decision covers pre-school vaccinations for children, but it could also have an impact on the EU’s fight to control the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mandatory vaccines can be seen as “necessary in a democratic society,” the Strasbourg-based court said in its ruling, which came to a 16-1 vote.
A Czech man had challenged his country’s vaccine needs for young children after being fined for refusing to have his son and daughter vaccinated against tetanus, hepatitis B and polio. Plaintiff, Pavel Vavricka, said the law violated his family’s right to privacy. Five other families filed similar cases after their children were denied access to kindergartens or kindergartens.
The European Court of Human Rights agreed that vaccine obligations place a burden on an individual, but it added that the societal benefits outweigh this burden.
According to the laws of the Czech Republic, children must receive two combination vaccines to protect against a number of diseases, according to the public television station Czech Television.
The court called vaccines “one of the most successful and cost-effective health interventions” known to medicine, noting that the dynamics of herd immunity make it important to achieve a high vaccination rate.
The court said that some children’s inability to be vaccinated makes it more important to reach “a very high vaccination rate” to protect against infectious diseases.
Thursday’s ruling is the first time the European Court of Justice has ruled on mandatory vaccinations, according to Deutsche Welle and other European media.
In addition to ruling on privacy, the court also rejected the argument of several of the plaintiffs that the EU guarantee of religious freedom and belief protects their position against the vaccines.
According to the order, the applicants could not prove that their opinion on vaccines “was of sufficient coherence, seriousness, cohesion and significance to constitute a belief or belief” under Article 9 protection of the European Constitution.
All the Czech cases were filed years before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the verdict comes as many countries – in Europe and around the world – are looking for ways to ensure their populations reach high levels of vaccination. Many of these efforts run counter to skepticism, driven by misinformation and concern that the development of vaccines may be accelerated.
A large portion of the U.S. population is also reluctant to receive COVID-19 vaccines: 1 in 4 Americans say they would reject vaccination outright, according to a recent NPR / Marist poll.