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Vaccination in the EU: in which countries is voluntary, where is it compulsory?



Updated April 30, 2019, at 04:03

The European Union is divided into compulsory vaccination: it is a law in twelve member states, while in 16 countries it only offers recommendations on which diseases should be vaccinated. There are also differences in the performance of duty.

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In Europe, the debate surrounding the introduction of mandatory vaccination is currently causing high waves. The results of an EU-wide survey have also contributed to this.

They showed that 85% of EU citizens consider vaccines to be effective in preventing infectious diseases. At the same time, however, 48% believe that vaccines usually have serious side effects.

This belief has led to growing skepticism of vaccination in recent years, which has already had serious negative consequences in the European Union, as vaccination rates are falling and the number of infectious diseases is increasing: According to the European Commission, the number of measles cases from 2016 to 2017 tripled.

The disease is highly infectious and can be fatal. Over the past two years, 50 people in the EU have died of measles.

Other dangerous diseases that can be stopped or at least reduced by vaccines include diphtheria, poliomyelitis and seasonal influenza. However, immunization rates for these diseases are falling throughout the EU, according to the European Commission.

Member States responsible for vaccination

As the responsibility for vaccination programs lies with the Member States, there are no uniform laws in the European Union that determine how to deal with the issue: some countries have legal obligations to vaccinate, others only recommend to their citizens.

However, the current discussion has brought movement to the status quo: for example, in Austria and Germany, the introduction of a statutory vaccination obligation is being considered. Currently there is a legal obligation in the state of Brandenburg for parents to vaccinate their children against measles.

The European comparison shows that in most Member States vaccination is not compulsory: in 16 out of 28 EU countries, parents have no legal obligation to immunize their children against disease. Apart from Germany and Austria, these countries include Great Britain, Spain, Denmark, Portugal and Holland.

Twelve EU countries have compulsory vaccination

In the twelve countries that have a duty to vaccinate, it applies to a very different extent, as shown by a list of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). For example, in Belgium only vaccination against polio, ie polio, is mandatory, whereas in Latvia there are 14 compulsory vaccines. In the midfield, countries like Italy (ten mandatory inoculations) or France (eleven) are on the move.

Polio, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, Hib, hepatitis B, measles, mumps and chickenpox are among the diseases to be vaccinated in Italy. In France, vaccines against pneumococci and meningococci are mandatory, but the vaccine against chicken pox is not mandatory.

There are also differences in how to comply with the obligation to vaccinate: According to the ECDC, people who do not comply with legal requirements must pay fines in Malta, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia. pay. In the Czech Republic, Italy, Poland and Slovakia, opposition to compulsory vaccination is also recorded in the medical record.

In general, compliance with the vaccination obligation is checked when children attend kindergarten or school: for example, parents should provide adequate vaccines in Italy or France.

Sources used:

  • europa.eu: "Questions and answers: cooperation at EU level in the fight against vaccine-preventable diseases" (PDF Download)
  • ECDC (European Center for Disease Prevention and Control): "Vaccine scheduler"
  • Connect with ECDC

The SDP in the Bundestag wants to make it compulsory to vaccinate children against measles. The health expert, Karl Lauterbach, is in this regard in talks with Health Minister Jens Spahn.


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