Mandatory vaccinations for pre-school children in the Czech Republic have been backed by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in a landmark ruling.
The case was lodged by families in the Czech Republic who had children refused admission to pre-school or had been fined for refusing to vaccinate their children, in some instances dating back to 2003.
The ECHR said it found no violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, rebuffing the parents’ complaints that the government had violated their rights.
While all the cases pre-dated the Covid-19 pandemic, the issue of routine vaccinations in children has faced increasing challenges due the spread of the virus.
That landmark ruling is the first from the ECHR on compulsory vaccinations against childhood diseases, with the judges backing Czech legislation by 16 to 1.
‘The… measures could be regarded as being “necessary in a democratic society”‘ the court said, adding: ‘The objective has to be that every child is protected against serious diseases, through vaccination or by virtue of herd immunity.’
‘The Court found that the measures complained of by the applicants, when assessed in the national context, had struck a fair balance with the aims pursued by the Czech State, i.e. protection against diseases representing a serious risk for one´s health.’
Under Czech law, unless medically exempted, children must be vaccinated against nine generally known diseases, like poliomyelitis, hepatitis B, or tetanus.
However, jabs cannot be given forcibly, and unvaccinated children cannot be excluded on such a basis once they read primary school age.
The court said the Czech policy ‘pursued the legitimate aims of protecting health as well as the rights of others, noting that vaccination protects both those who receive it and also those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons’ and who are reliant on herd immunity.