According to press reports, a Basel father, who had filed for divorce, asked the court to order his wife to vaccinate their three children against measles.
As local judges refused to get involved, the matter eventually ended up in the Federal Court, Switzerland’s highest judicial authority.
This week, the Court ruled that if the parents disagree on immunisations, the authorities must intervene in the best interests of the children. Its ruling is therefore based on the recommendations of the Federal Office of Public Health, which is in favour of measles vaccination.
When issuing its ruling, the Court stressed that in normal situations, “the autonomy of the family takes precedence over the interventions of the State”.
In this sense, the Court's judgment does not imply that the authorities can randomly order the vaccination of children if the parents have mutually decided not to do so.
They can only intervene if parents can’t reach an agreement regarding vaccinations, or jointly settle questions relating to their children’s health.
Authorities can intercede only if disagreements between parents threaten the children’s development or expose them to a serious health risk, the Court said.
After handing down its decision, the Federal Court referred the case back to the Basel judicial authorities to rule out any health contraindications to the immunisation, in other words, to determine that none of the three children is allergic to the measles vaccine.
Unlike its neighbours Germany, Italy, and France, Switzerland doesn’t have a mandatory vaccination policy. As a result, the number of measles cases had skyrocketed here at the end of last year.
Nearly 230 cases of measles were reported in this country of 8.5 million people —six times more than in the same period in 2018.