Supreme Court: COVID-19 vaccination may be mandatory in Brazil

No one will be forced to be vaccinated, but a sanction may be imposed

Published in 18/12/2020 - 12:02 By André Richter - Brasília

Brazil’s Supreme Court has granted permission for local governments to introduce measures for compulsory vaccination against COVID-19. It was understood that governments at federal, state, and municipal levels may impose legal measures for making vaccination mandatory, even though they cannot force citizens to take the vaccine.

The case received preventive consideration from the top court on Thursday (Dec. 17). Thus far, none of the laboratory developing a vaccine against the novel coronavirus has requested authorization from Brazil’s national sanitary regulator Anvisa for commercialization.

After the decision, no law may order citizens to be taken to receive the vaccine by force, but it may stipulate a restriction of rights if citizens fail to demonstrate they have been vaccinated—like not being allowed to file for a benefit, or being banned from entering a place or enrolling at a public school.

In the same ruling, the court decided that parents or guardians of children and adolescents must vaccinate their children.

The understanding was reached by the Supreme Court after three cases were considered. The court deliberated on motions filed by the Democratic Labor Party, on the jurisdiction of states and municipalities making vaccination mandatory and the Brazilian Labor Party (PTB), whose goal was to make sure that immunization was not compulsory. Also considered was the case of a vegan couple who refused to vaccinate their children for personal convictions. The case was submitted to the court before the pandemic started.

Votes

Prevalent in the process were the ballots cast by Justices Ricardo Lewandowski and Luis Roberto Barroso, rapporteurs for the motions. Vaccinating the population by force is unconstitutional, Lewandowski argued. However, governments may approve measures to make vaccination indirectly compulsory.

Barroso said that freedom of consciousness and belief must be respected, but collective rights should prevail. The justice noted that vaccination was first made mandatory by law during Brazil’s monarchy period. “Mandatory vaccination is no novelty in Brazilian law,” he pointed out.

Translation: Fabrício Ferreira -  Edition: Aline Leal / Nira Foster

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