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Can Swiss schools force you to vaccinate your children?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Can Swiss schools force you to vaccinate your children?
Not all kids in Switzerland have had their shots. Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Most kids in Switzerland are vaccinated against common childhood illnesses. But some parents choose not to do so. Can their schools force them?


The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) recommends that infants and children be vaccinated, in the very least, against measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, polio, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B, chickenpox, pneumococcal diseases, as well as the so-called Hib vaccine which kills bacteria that can cause a severe infection occurring mostly in infants and children under five.

These are the same vaccines as the ones administered to children across the European Union.

However, unlike many other countries around the world, including neighbours Germany, France and Italy, where these childhood vaccines are either mandatory in general or mandatory for school entry, in Switzerland they are merely recommended rather than compulsory.

As a result, though most children in Switzerland are immunised according to official guidelines, some are vaccinated only against some diseases, while others not at all.

A study found that full vaccination coverage in the country remained below 90 percent. 

Particularly children living in rural and German-speaking areas are “more likely to be entirely unvaccinated,” the study revealed.

This means that more than 10 percent of children in Switzerland don’t have immunity against common childhood illnesses — a higher proportion than elsewhere in Europe.

Why is this?

As it became clear during the Covid pandemic, vaccinations — whether against coronavirus or other diseases — are not obligatory in Switzerland.

That is because the country’s constitution grants everyone a right to “self-determination,” including in matters of health.

“Everyone can decide for themselves”, according to FOPH.

When it comes to children, however, it is the parents who decide.


Can schools force parents?

Since unvaccinated children are not only at a higher risk of illness themselves, but also can expose others to it, can a school force vaccinations?

In this regard, there is a difference between public and private schools.

Since the law doesn’t  require children (or anyone else, for that matter) to get any shots, publically-funded institutions, including schools, cannot impose or enact this.

By the same token, they can’t refuse an unvaccinated child access to the classroom.

Private schools, on the other hand,  have more leeway in this matter.

As they don’t depend on taxpayers’ money, they have the right to ask parents to vaccinate their child, and deny admission to those who don’t comply.

In one such example, in 2019, a network of private nursery schools called Kita ruled that all children attending their facilities must be vaccinated against at least measles and whooping cough. If parents refuse, the children are denied attendance.

READ ALSO: Could you be forced to vaccinate your children in Switzerland?


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