Year

Judgement No. 14 of 2023

Silvana SCIARRA, President Filippo PATRONI GRIFFI, Author of the Judgment

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In this case, the Court considered various questions referred by the Council of Administrative Justice of Sicily Region concerning rules applicable in relation to vaccination against COVID-19. The referring court questioned the constitutionality of the requirement of mandatory vaccination for healthcare workers, as well as provisions requiring the suspension of the right to practise the medical profession in the event of non-compliance. It also objected that the legislation did not expressly dispense with the requirement to obtain signed, informed consent in situations involving compulsory medical treatment and mandatory vaccination. Citing the previous case law of the Constitutional Court, the referring court objected that the adverse effects caused by the vaccines were not “normal and tolerable”, and indeed were “higher by several orders of magnitude” than adverse events associated with previous vaccines. It also objected that no provision was made for pre-vaccination triage, which – by its assertion – would identify persons at risk of adverse reactions. The Court rejected the questions, holding that the risk of a serious adverse event does not in itself render unconstitutional the requirement of mandatory vaccination and that Article 32 of the Constitution requires that a balance be struck between the individual right to health and overall public health in accordance with the principle of solidarity. Moreover, in keeping with its existing case law, the Court reiterated that medical treatments – including mandatory vaccination – that may entail a risk of undesirable consequences, detrimental beyond normally tolerable limits, must be deemed to be lawful if their goal is to protect public health. The balance that the legislator must strike between individual health and public health is a discretionary one, although it must be based on scientific evidence. The Court may review whether the legislation is reasonable and proportionate and is consistent with the underlying scientific facts. After reviewing the scientific basis, the Court held in this case that the scientific authorities all attest that vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 are safe and effective. It also upheld the legislation as reasonable and proportionate, as it was necessary and appropriate to achieve legitimately pursued objectives, and that the consequences were nuanced as regards their duration and severity. Finally, the Court held that no issue of informed consent was raised in this case, as individuals were free to choose whether or not to comply with the requirement, although in the latter eventuality they would have to accept in a responsible manner the consequences provided for by law.