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Children to be vaccinated if parents disagree among themselves

If parents disagree on measles vaccination, the authorities must intervene in the child’s best interests, according to Switzerland’s top court. 

On Wednesday, the Federal Court ruled that the final decision must be based on the recommendations of the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) which is in favour of vaccination against measles. 

Authorities can intervene only if differences between the parents threaten the child’s development. In particular, when the child is exposed to a serious risk of physical harm.  

In the event of disagreement between the parents, the child protection authority or a court must take a decision and be guided by the FOPH’s recommendation to vaccinate against measles. The only exception would contraindications to the vaccine.  

The judges stressed that its ruling does not mean that the authorities could order the vaccination of children when the parents have decided by mutual agreement not to do so. It is up to lawmakers to decide whether vaccination should be made compulsory or not.  

In this specific case, a father had applied to a lower court in the context of a divorce to order the mother to have their three children vaccinated. The judges had refused and their decision had been confirmed by the Basel Country cantonal court.  The Federal Court partially accepted the father’s appeal and referred the case back to the Basel court. In particular, the court must determine whether there are any contraindications to the vaccination.