The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) accepts the Czech Republic’s position on mandatory vaccinations for children, it said in a landmark ruling on Thursday that rebuffed parents’ complaints that the government violated their rights.
The decision concerns complaints filed before the COVID-19 pandemic, but could come into play again if the issue of vaccinating children against that disease becomes a matter for debate.
The case was lodged by Czech families 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.
“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,” the ECHR said.
Under Czech law, unless medically exempted, children must be vaccinated against nine generally known diseases, like poliomyelitis, hepatitis B or tetanus.
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.
“The Czech health policy could therefore be said to be consistent with the best interests of the children who were its focus,” it added.
The court said the fine in the original applicant’s case was not excessive. It also said that refusal of admission to pre-school was a “preventive rather than a punitive measure”.