The Dilemma of Compulsory Vaccinations—Ethical and Legal Considerations

Yael Sela, Keren Grinberg, Rachel Nissanholtz-Gannot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The high childhood vaccination coverage in Israel leads to a low rate of morbidity from the diseases against which the vaccination in administered. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, children’s immunization rates declined dramatically due to closures of schools and childcare services, lockdowns, and guidelines for physical distancing. In addition, parents’ hesitancy, refusals, and delays in adhering to routine childhood immunizations seem to have increased during the pandemic. A decline in routine pediatric vaccine administration might indicate that the entire population faces increased risks for outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. Throughout history, vaccines have raised questions about their safety, efficacy, and need among adults and parents who feared or hesitated to vaccinate their children. Objections derive from various ideological and religious reasons or concerns about the possible inherent dangers. Mistrust in the government and/or economic or political interests also raise concerns among parents. The importance of providing vaccines to maintain public health, as opposed to the autonomy of the individuals over their body and their children, raises ethical questions. In Israel, there is no legal obligation to get vaccinated. It is imperative to find a decisive solution to this situation without delay. Furthermore, where democratically one’s principles are sacred and where one’s autonomy over one’s body is also unquestionable, such a legal solution would not only be unacceptable but also rather impossible to enforce. It seems that some reasonable balance between the necessity to preserve public health and our democratic principles should apply.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1140
JournalHealthcare (Switzerland)
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 2023


  • compulsory vaccination
  • immunization
  • law
  • public health


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