Can you legally be forced to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Europe?

Solo about a third of the Frenchand from the english is in favor of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, according to a survey commissioned by Euronews in October, while more than 40% of Spaniards would prefer not to be vaccinated as soon as the drug is approved, according to another survey by the Center for Sociological Research (CIS).

The point is that the dilemma of getting vaccinated or not facing the new virus is less and less an abstract debate, but an imminent reality in Europe.

Waiting for vaccines to receive regulatory approval, the continent is already preparing for an extensive vaccination campaign.

United Kingdom, in the lead, will begin to administer the first vaccines from Pfizer / BioNTech Pharmaceuticals next week. France, meanwhile, plans to vaccinate the first million people in January, starting with nursing homes and high-risk care workers.

Given that vaccination campaigns base their efficacy in herd immunityWhat happens if large percentages of the population refuse to receive the vaccine?

Are there legal mechanisms to force the population to get vaccinated?

Miquel Morales Sabalete, partner in the Civil area of ​​AGM Abogados, explains to Euronews that the answer is yes in the case of Spain, although the obligatory nature of a treatment or a medical examination may affect fundamental rights recognized in the Constitution.

The text on which this obligation could be based is the Organic Law of Public Health that establishes that the competent health authorities “may adopt measures of recognition, treatment, hospitalization or control when rational indications are appreciated that allow to suppose the existence of danger to the health of the population due to the specific health situation of a person or group of people or due to the health conditions in which an activity takes place “.

Therefore, it concludes, if the health authority determines that the pandemic justifies it “There seems to be no legal obstacle to the imposition of a vaccination campaign.”

European governments opposed to the obligation

The director of Spain’s Center for the Coordination of Alerts and Health Emergencies, Fernando Simón, said he hopes that the vaccine against COVID-19 “does not have to be mandatory.”

Italy has not yet decided whether or not to make it mandatory. “There is no guideline for the obligation of the vaccine, but we recommend it,” said Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

The Italian Minister of Health, Roberto Speranza, added: “I think that with persuasion and with a real campaign we can achieve herd immunity without the obligation, but it is clear that we have to achieve it.”

In France, President Emmanuel Macron has been adamant that vaccination will not be mandatory: “Immunization must be done clearly and transparently, sharing all the information at every step: what we know and what we don’t know. I also want to be clear: I will not make vaccination mandatory. “

“No one will be forced to be vaccinated, it is a voluntary decision”, agreed the Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that while he “strongly urges people” to get vaccinated, “It is not part of our culture or our ambition in this country to make vaccinations mandatory.”

Can airlines and other private companies force us?

The lawyer Miquel Morales Sabalete says that the mandatory vaccination “with the current legislation in hand” is only in the hands of the health authorities.

“The private companies, regarding their workers, at present, are not in legal disposition to oblige them to be vaccinated,” he adds, “and I doubt that the Government or Parliament will authorize such a thing except, perhaps, very specific sectors for their special exposure or their special risk of transmission to risk groups, such as nursing homes “.

Regarding the airlines or other transport companies, Morales emphasizes that they do not have this legal power either.

believes that the system could be the same as the current one with PCR tests: they may even require the accreditation of this vaccination to those users who want to travel to a certain destination where the health authorities have established this condition.