Compulsory vaccination from February – this is what Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg announced on Friday. Since then the waves have been rising – and by no means only in Austria: The decision has also given new food to the discussion in Germany, where more and more health experts are speaking out in favor of compulsory vaccination. The fourth corona wave hits the three German-speaking countries, i.e. Austria, Germany and Switzerland, particularly hard.

Above all, the vaccination opponents are storming against the announced measure. There is talk of “dictatorship” especially on the far right, where there is usually little against a strong man and even less against coercive measures if they affect migrants. Others, who are definitely located in the political center and to the left of it, question the legality as well as the feasibility.

Constitutional Compliance

It is now a matter of making distinctions.

Christian Kopetzki established in 2017, well before the Corona crisis, that mandatory vaccinations in Austria can be constitutional. In “Law of Medicine”, the jurist writes: “A certain legal compulsion to carry out vaccinations would not only be ethically justifiable; it would also be necessary in the light of state guarantee obligations to protect health at least not fundamentally against. ” As a prerequisite for the introduction of a mandatory vaccination, Kopetzki sees that other steps have previously been carried out with less than more success.

Meinhard Lukas, lawyer and rector of the Johannes Kepler University in Linz, said in an interview with ORF on November 17, now with regard to compulsory vaccination against the corona virus: “I think there is no constitutional expert and no legal scholar who believes is that such a general vaccination requirement is unconstitutional. “

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Naturally, there can be no talk of a “dictatorship” either. It was not until 1981 that the compulsory vaccination against smallpox was suspended in Austria. In many European democracies, vaccination requirements have also recently been introduced: in Italy, for example, against diphtheria, hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenzae b infection (Hib), whooping cough, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus and chickenpox; in France against diphtheria, hepatitis B, Hib, whooping cough, polio, measles, mumps, pneumococci, rubella, tetanus and meningococci; in Belgium against polio.

Austria is by no means the first western state to introduce compulsory vaccination against the coronavirus: one has existed in the Vatican since February. This should give particular thought to the groups that quickly refer to Christian values ​​on other issues.

Which right is higher?

While vaccination opponents in principle reject all vaccinations regardless of the vaccine, including those against measles, rubella or mumps, the vaccination against the coronavirus also puts people on the barricades who are not principally opponents of vaccinations. This has undoubtedly to do with the novelty of vaccines and with a disinformation campaign unprecedented in history, which is based on social media, but also occasionally on private broadcasters, who try to attract frightened and insecure people with their alternative offerings.

Against this background, the moral question must be asked and clarified: is it, regardless of the legal possibilities, morally permissible to introduce compulsory vaccination?

This question, too, can only be answered with a resounding yes. The reasons for this are obvious.

If one ignores the obvious conspiracy theorists among the vaccine opponents, who rant about the implantation of chips, intentional AIDS infection, targeted thinning of the population through fatal sequelae, a conspiracy of the pharmaceutical industry and the like, two moral arguments are repeatedly put forward with which one has to deal with: namely the right to the undamaged body and the right to self-determination as to how an illness is treated. Opponents of the vaccination claim that both are their human rights.

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Purely morally argued: The basis of all human rights are two principles: one’s own freedom ends when it interferes with the freedom of the other. And the common good is higher than the individual good.

Opinion against facts

The right to self-determination as to how an illness is treated means that, for example, one can take homeopathic preparations that are ineffective against one’s own painful illness and cannot be forced to use pain relievers.

Such a disease (one could also use cancer, multiple sclerosis and the like) is of course not infectious. Covid-19, on the other hand, is an infectious disease. The right to decide for oneself about the course of action is therefore restricted, since one’s own infection affects the health of another.

In this context, the right to the integrity of one’s own body must also be reconciled with the principle that the common good takes precedence over the individual: the protection of public health is more important than the irrational personal rejection of a vaccination. Because that this is ineffective and harmful is a demonstrably false claim with the approved vaccines. There is a right to one’s own opinion, but not a right to one’s own facts. It can be expected that the state will provide those people who do not voluntarily receive vaccinations with these facts. And anyone who cannot be vaccinated for objective medical reasons is exempt from the obligation to vaccinate.

However, there is one point that must be legally anchored by the state: Serious side effects of the vaccination are almost negligible, but, as with any drug, can still occur sporadically. Who is liable in these cases? This must be clarified unambiguously in advance.

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That in the ideal case the willingness to vaccinate, partly for reasons of concern for one’s own health, partly also out of solidarity, increases to such an extent that it is still possible to refrain from compulsory vaccination, is a wishful thinking for psychological reasons: Because something from the knowledge of the meaning and one resulting conviction happens is always more sustainable than an enforced obligation.

If such an enforced obligation remains the only way to get the corona crisis under control, there are no legal, medical and least of all moral reasons against it.

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