Vaccination of children: how they do it in Europe

All families moving permanently to Europe with small children or planning to give birth there are wondering how things are going with vaccination in a particular country.

Most often, they are interested in whether vaccination is mandatory for everyone without exception, how different the vaccination schedule is, and whether an unvaccinated child will be accepted into a kindergarten or school.

Despite the EU’s desire to bring many areas of life to a common denominator, there is no uniform provision or even recommendations in terms of vaccinating children, and the authorities of each country make their own decisions.


The most liberal legislation takes place in Spain, where, moreover, there is no unified vaccination calendar – it is different for each autonomous community. Vaccination is purely voluntary, but the proportion of children who receive all scheduled vaccinations in the first year of life exceeds 97% (in the Valencian Community and the Autonomous Community of Madrid this figure reaches 99%).

There are fewer and fewer “anti-vaxxers” every year, including because the administrations of educational centers may refuse to allow parents to admit unvaccinated children and adolescents. If the case comes to court, then in the overwhelming majority of cases it recognizes such a decision as justified, based on the potential threat to “public health.”


There is no compulsory vaccination in Germany either, but even here its level is very high – about 95%. And this figure could be even higher if the Germans – as paradoxical as it may sound – treated this issue more responsibly. Most often, Germans simply forget about the date of vaccination or do not find free time to go to the pediatrician due to life circumstances.

All information is entered into the so-called “vaccination passport”, however, unlike Spain, it is not required for admission to kindergarten or school. The majority of convinced German “anti-vaxxers” are indigenous residents of the country. Some of them believe that nature will sort everything out on its own, and the child’s body should not be “poisoned” again, while others are much more afraid of vaccines than of diseases.


Portuguese parents are also not prohibited by law from refusing vaccination, which is advisory in nature. However, in reality, these “recommendations” often turn out to be very, very persistent – primarily on the part of doctors. In extreme cases, they can write a statement to the social service, and then there will be a risk of losing the right to raise a child or, at a minimum, being under constant surveillance.

Secondary education in Portugal is compulsory for everyone, so unvaccinated children are admitted to school, albeit reluctantly, but attending preschool institutions without a vaccination certificate is completely excluded. However, the “anti-vaxxers” themselves, a large part of whom are immigrants, are not particularly keen to enroll their children there.


In the summer of 2017, Italy passed a law on universal compulsory and free vaccination, which effectively closed the doors to all educational institutions of preschool and secondary education (even private ones) for children without ten basic vaccinations. Without the appropriate certificate, a child simply will not be accepted into school or kindergarten, although parents will be given time to fill in all the gaps.

The main reason for the introduction of such a radical measure was the aggravation of the epidemiological situation caused by the massive influx of refugees from third world countries. Because of this, outbreaks of diseases that were previously considered defeated here began to occur in the Apennines – primarily measles, although in the south things were always worse than in the north. It is the authorities of the northern regions, as well as a number of political forces, that advocate the abolition of compulsory vaccination, believing that an alternative to coercion, fines (up to 7,500 euros) and threats of deprivation of parental rights should be the education of civic consciousness.


As in Italy, vaccination of children in France is mandatory, but only for those babies born since the beginning of 2018. At the same time, the national vaccination calendar was introduced, according to which each child must be vaccinated against 11 diseases (previously there were three). Without these vaccinations, which are noted in the medical record, you cannot attend not only kindergarten or school, but also sports clubs.

For “dissenters” there is a whole system of fines starting from 1,500 euros – in particular, for failure to meet deadlines, for refusing one or another vaccination. Particularly principled “anti-vaxxers” may face imprisonment for a term of six months to two years and/or deprivation of parental rights, but there is no reliable information that such punishment has been applied in practice.

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