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Could you be forced to vaccinate your children in Switzerland?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Could you be forced to vaccinate your children in Switzerland?
Measles vaccines are not obligatory but recommended. Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Unlike many other countries, Switzerland doesn’t have a vaccine mandate. But does this mean authorities can’t demand that your kids get jabbed?

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As health authorities kept saying during the pandemic, when vaccines had become a highly controversial issue, immunisations against Covid — or any other diseases, including the childhood ones — are not compulsory (read more about this below).

But those are just empty words to one Basel mother.

The woman, an avid anti-vaxxer who, according to media reports, considers vaccines “a genocide,” refused to vaccinate her kids, now 8 and 10 years old, against measles, which is one of  several immunisations that the Federal Office for Public Health (FOPH) recommends for children.

The kids were not immunised against any other childhood illnesses either.

However, the children’s father, from whom the mother is divorced, wanted them to get the  measles shot. The long-winded battle between the parents eventually landed in Switzerland highest tribunal, the Federal Court.

As it had done in several previous similar cases when parents didn't see eye to eye about vaccinating their children, the court followed FOPH’s recommendations — that is, it complied with public health guidelines, which are clearly in favour of childhood immunisations.

Therefore, judges sided with the father, giving the mother until today, September 15th, to immunise her children against measles.

If she still refuses to comply, “police intervention will be necessary” and children will be taken to a pediatrician and vaccinated against the mother's  will.

In the meantime, opposition to the court’s ruling (and support for the mother) has been growing in her local community in Basel-Country, where residents are organising a vigil for the mother and her children.

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Is forced vaccination legal in Switzerland?

Generally, it isn’t.

Swiss law, which guarantees individual freedom of choice and self-determination, doesn’t allow forcing someone to get vaccinated against their will — the main reason why Switzerland never introduced a vaccine mandate during the Covid pandemic.

By the same token, Switzerland doesn’t mandate common childhood vaccines either, including those against measles, whooping cough, tetanus, and others required in many other countries around the world, including neighbours Germany, France, and Italy.

Vaccinations are not required to attend public schools in Switzerland, unlike in many other countries. 

READ ALSO: Why vaccinations are not mandatory in Switzerland

This had become a problem in Switzerland in 2019, when measles spread among the unvaccinated children and adults at a faster rate than in prior years and in other European countries; more than 215 people became ill, and two people consequently died from this illness – a 30-year-old man who had never been vaccinated, and a cancer patient whose immunity was weakened. 

According to FOPH, two doses of a combined childhood vaccine (called 'MMR') are recommended — the first at nine months and the second at 12 months of age. "A catch-up immunisation is possible at any age and is recommended for anyone born after 1963 who is not yet immune."
 
 
 

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