Following yesterday’s news reports about the pro-vaccination ruling in the European Court of Human Rights, we asked David McGrogan, Associate Professor of Law at Northumbria Law School, to take a look at the judgment for us. Turns out, everything wasn’t as it seemed. Here’s an extract:
A recent decision of the European Court of Human Rights has made something of a splash, because it appears, as the headline on the BBC website puts it, to suggest that the Court has “backed mandatory pre-school jabs“. This immediately calls up images of small children being forcibly vaccinated irrespective of their parents’ wishes. As is often the case, however, the reality is a lot less dramatic. The Court’s decision is really just a faithful application of what must, perhaps regrettably, be the correct legal position. However, it is an important case for those Lockdown Sceptics readers who are wary about vaccinations to understand, because it is a foretaste of the conclusion that a UK court would almost certainly reach in similar circumstances.
The case in question, Vavricka and Others v Czech Republic (App No. 47621/13) concerned a series of six applications from Czech citizens concerning the position in Czech law that all permanent residents must undergo certain routine vaccinations or face a fine, and that preschool facilities may only accept children who have received the vaccinations in question. The applicants, some of whom were parents who had been fined for not allowing their children to be vaccinated, and some of whom had been denied places at preschool facilities as children, argued amongst other things that the consequences of the application of the law in question violated their rights under Article 8 of the Convention – namely the right to respect for their private lives. The Court held that while there had been an interference with this right, it was justified as having been lawfully enacted and being “necessary in a democratic society… for the protection of health” pursuant to that Article.
It is important first to make clear that the Court absolutely did not “back mandatory pre-school jabs”. The Court’s decision was the proper and circumspect one to adopt in the circumstances – i.e., that it is not the place of an international court to override the decisions of national authorities who are accountable to their electorates, as a general principle, and those national authorities must therefore have a wide “margin of appreciation” in how they choose to balance competing interests (those here being the right to privacy and the requirement to protect health). The position in Czech law was somewhat more prescriptive than most of the other parties to the European Convention, but there were other governments (the French, Polish and Slovak ones) which adopted similar positions, and there was therefore no real basis for concluding that the law in question was not “necessary in a democratic society”.
Worth reading in full.