ECHR Backs Czech Requirement To Vaccinate Kindergarten Children

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the Czech Republic is within its rights to require compulsory vaccination of preschool children, in its first-ever ruling on the issue. “The… measures could be regarded as being ‘necessary in a democratic society” ruled the court. According to a legal expert, this judgment “reinforces the possibility of compulsory vaccination under the conditions of the current COVID-19 epidemic.” Photo Credit: Freepik / Illustrative Photo.

Czech Rep., Apr 9 (BD) – The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has upheld the Czech Republic’s decision to require mandatory vaccinations for preschool children. The case was brought to court by families who were fined or whose children were refused entry to kindergartens because they were not vaccinated. The court ruled that the Czech Republic had not violated the right to respect for private and family life by insisting on compulsory vaccination, underlining that the Czech policy was in line with the European human rights standards and the need to protect public health. The obligation to vaccinate may be “necessary in a democratic society,”  the ECHR court judgment read. The decision acknowledged that the Czech Republic requirement for the vaccination of children “promotes the legitimate interests of the protection of the health and rights of other people.” This is the first ruling by the ECHR on compulsory vaccination for children. 

The court ruled on a total of six complaints, the first arriving in Strasbourg as early as 2013. In most cases, the kindergarten refused to accept unvaccinated children. The court stated that the fine imposed on parents was not disproportionate and that the decision of the education facilities not to accept these children was a preventive rather than a repressive measure. The judgment notes the mandatory vaccination against nine diseases in the Czech Republic is not ‘enforced by force’ in the country, but that schools have the right not to accept an unvaccinated child. This does not apply to children who cannot be vaccinated for health reasons. The justices ruled in favour of the Czech Republic by 16-1.

The ECHR is an international human rights institution connected with the Council of Europe, and has 47 member states. The court in Strasbourg rules on complaints lodged against member states related to their obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights (1953). 

All the cases before the court date back to before the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the ruling from the court did not deal directly with COVID-19 vaccines, experts believe that it could have implications for the vaccination against the virus, especially for those who refuse to get vaccinated. This judgment “reinforces the possibility of compulsory vaccination under conditions of the current COVID-19 epidemic,” says Nicolas Hervieu, a legal expert specializing in the ECHR.

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