Landmark ruling in Turkey a victory for anti-vaccine parents

Published 14.11.2015 00:00

Turkey's highest legal authority, the Constitutional Court, recently ruled that mandatory vaccination for children without parents' consent contradicted the law in a landmark verdict for parents opposing vaccination for health reasons.

The court said vaccinations carried out by the Health Ministry against the consent of parents violated two laws on basic rights and freedoms. The top court's ruling said that parents cannot be forced to have their children vaccinated even if they are ordered by the courts and there needs to an amendment in law for mandatory vaccination.

The vaccination of children and babies against diseases remains a hotly debated issue in Turkey with families taking their opposition to vaccination to the courts. Though the general consensus in the scientific community is in favor of vaccination and any hazard to human health due to vaccines is downplayed, parents are wary of having their children inoculated.

Different verdicts by two courts in recent months, one supporting the parents and the other supporting the state, brought the issue to the spotlight. A local court rejected the state medical authority's demand for the vaccination of a couple's twin infants while the Supreme Court of Appeals, the ultimate legal authority, struck down a request by parents and ruled parental permission may not be needed for vaccination.

In Ordu, a northern province, Hüseyin Ayyayla and his wife Reyhan opposed the local medical authority, which supervises the vaccination of newborn babies and older children, and did not have their twin children inoculated. The medical authority filed a lawsuit against the couple, seeking a court order for the vaccination against Hepatitis B. Hüseyin Ayyayla, a prosecutor, presented an elaborate defense to the court, basing his opposition to vaccines on various scientific studies. He defended that the vaccination of a child without parental approval and without medical emergency violated patient's rights. Presenting various medical studies to the court, the father cited findings of thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative, in some vaccines that reportedly led to autism. He further claimed vaccines might leave long-term damage on the body, as they were composed of genetically modified microbes. Lastly, he said physicians did not fully inform the parents on the potential risks of vaccines. The local court ruled in favor of the Ayyayla family in a verdict that may set a precedent for other families opposing the vaccination of their children.

The Ministry of Health officials had said earlier that studies could not find a direct link between autism and vaccinations and thimerosal, which although used in vaccines, its amount was below the level that could pose a risk to health. The statement said the high rate of vaccination in Turkey led to a decline in preventable diseases and deaths caused by these diseases.

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