ECHR/Vaccines: Establishing Limits on States' Power

Vaccines: Establishing States' Limits

By ECLJ1578493878696


The recent development of biotechnology requires to lay down principles delimiting the power of public administration over the body of people with particular acuity. Public health has certainly advanced a great deal during the 20th century, but the governments of many countries, even democratic ones, have sometimes abused their power in this matter, by imposing hygienist and eugenic policies which violate the rights of individuals. This was the case as soon as 1927 in the United States, when the Supreme Court relied on the legality of compulsory vaccination to accept that of forced sterilization.

In France, the sudden and massive increase in the number of compulsory vaccines - going from three to eleven in 2018 - raises questions and is met with strong resistance. To date, there is nothing to prevent the government from further increasing the number of compulsory vaccines, despite the fact that the respect for the health and the physical and moral integrity of individuals are at stake.


On January 6th, 2020, the compulsory vaccination issue was brought to the most solemn formation of the ECHR. This eagerly awaited judgment will then set a precedent in the 47 member states of the Council of Europe.


This case originates from some parents’ refusal to administer to their children all or part of the vaccines compulsory in the Czech Republic. Two parents refused all vaccines on religious grounds, others objected to some vaccines only, doubting their effectiveness, others finally wanted to vaccinate their children later than planned by the administration. In another case, finally, the refusal was due to various health problems of the child. These couples were all sanctioned. One was fined, the other five were prevented from enrolling their children in nursery school.

However, a significant proportion of European states do not impose a vaccination obligation. This is the case for, Austria, Cyprus, Denmark, Spain, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, the Netherlands, Portugal, the United Kingdom and Sweden. However, according to Daniel Floret, president of the Technical Committee on Vaccinations (CTV) of the High Council of Public Health, these countries “have an immunization coverage rate roughly similar” to the countries which impose vaccination.[1] The compulsory nature of vaccination therefore has no major impact on the vaccination coverage rate of the population.

The goal sought by compulsory vaccination can be achieved by less restrictive measures which are more respectful of the fundamental rights and freedoms of parents. To that end, the ECLJ intervened in this case and submitted its observations to the Court in 2016.

Support the observations of the ECLJ by signing this petition to ask the European Court to:


  • Establish clear limits to the power of the State with regard to compulsory vaccination;
  • Reject the general and absolute nature of compulsory vaccination;
  • Consider that the aim sought by compulsory vaccination can be achieved through less restrictive measures which are more respectful of the fundamental rights and freedoms of parents.

[1] Cécile Casciano, « L’arrêt de la vaccination obligatoire est inéluctable », L’Express, 20 mars 2015.

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