The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that obligatory vaccinations can be seen as necessary in democratic societies, in a landmark judgement after a complaint brought by Czech families over compulsory jabs for children.
"The... measures could be regarded as being 'necessary in a democratic society'" the court said in its judgement on Thursday, saying that the Czech health policy was consistent with the "best interests" of children.
"The objective has to be that every child is protected against serious diseases, through vaccination or by virtue of herd immunity," it added.
As a result, the court ruled there had been no violation of Article 8 on the right to respect for private life of the European Convention on Human Rights.
This is the first time that the ECHR has delivered a judgement about compulsory vaccination against childhood diseases. Experts say it could have implications for any policy of compulsory vaccinations against Covid-19 in the pandemic.
This judgement "reinforces the possibility of a compulsory vaccination under conditions of the current Covid-19 epidemic," said Nicolas Hervieu, a legal expert specialising in the ECHR.
In the Czech Republic, there is a general legal duty to vaccinate children against nine diseases, including diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B, and measles.
The case had been filed to the ECHR by Czech parents who were fined for failure to comply with this vaccination duty or whose children were denied admission to nursery school for the same reason.
The need for a large level of herd immunity to quell the Covid-19 pandemic has prompted debate about the need for possible compulsory vaccinations in the face of scepticism among some populations worldwide about immunisation.