Making children get jabs for common diseases is “necessary in a democratic society” and is in their best interests, the European Court for Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on Thursday in a landmark decision likely to infuriate anti-vaxxers.
The ECHR backed rules in the Czech Republic barring children unvaccinated against common diseases from schools.
The judgment will unavoidably have broader implications for the debate about mandatory jabs against Covid-19 for children, and even adults.
It’s the first time the ECHR has ruled on mandatory vaccinations for children.
A panel of judges decided by a vote of 16 to one that excluding unvaccinated children from school was permissible as a “protective” measure for classmates rather than a “punitive” one against the few not immunised, reports the Irish Times.
“The objective has to be that every child is protected against serious diseases, through vaccination or by virtue of herd immunity,” the Strasbourg court ruled. “The Czech health policy could, therefore, be said to be consistent with the best interests of the children who were its focus.”
The ruling could become political dynamite as people argue over whether vaccination against Covid-19 should be mandated by law, and whether children should be given a vaccine at all.
The families in Thursday’s case went to the ECHR after appeals against nursery school bans were rejected by Czech courts.
The parents had claimed that the mandatory jab rules violated their human rights.
In one case, a Czech citizen was fined for refusing to have his two teenage children vaccinated against polio, hepatitis B and tetanus and failed to have those fines overturned in local courts.
The ECHR noted that France, Poland, and Slovakia supported the Czech Republic’s more “prescriptive” approach to vaccination. Ultimately, however, it was not the court’s duty to judge whether the Czech policy was overly prescriptive, but whether it broke human rights rules.
It didn’t, the court ruled, and the government’s measures could be regarded as being “necessary in a democratic society”.
The court said that while mandatory vaccinations raised sensitive issues, the value of social solidarity to protect the health of all members of society, particularly those who were especially vulnerable, required everyone to assume a minimum risk by having jabs.
Vaccine producers including Pfizer and Moderna are currently doing clinical trials in adolescents, as some doctors argue the pandemic can never fully be brought under control until children are immunised.
There was no immediate reaction from the six who appealed the case to the ECHR, and representatives for the Czech health ministry weren’t immediately available to comment on the decision said Bloomberg.