Deciding body (English)
Deciding body (Original)
Type of body
Type of Court (material scope)
Type of jurisdiction
Type of Court (territorial scope)
Further areas addressed
- Freedom of movement of people
- Children's rights
Outcome of the decision
A 6-year-old boy was hospitalized in a Costa Rican state hospital with severe respiratory distress symptoms. He had asthma and was being tested for autism, a condition that prevented him from wearing a mask.
The doctors at the hospital told the parents that due to the child's health condition and the risk that a possible infection of COVID-19 posed to his health and life, he should be vaccinated against this disease. However, the parents were opposed to this procedure, so the Hospital, with the authorization of the National Child Welfare Agency, vaccinated him against the parents' will.
The Court considered that the compulsory vaccination, even against the consent of the child's parents, was justified and was a necessary measure to protect the child's life based on the child's best interests.
Facts of the case
A 6-year-old boy was hospitalized in a Costa Rican state hospital with severe respiratory distress symptoms. He had asthma and was being tested for autism, a condition that prevented him from wearing a mask. The child was tested for COVID-19, and the results were negative. However, due to the severity of his symptoms, he remained hospitalized.
The doctors of the Hospital indicated to the parents that due to the child's health condition and the risk that a possible infection of COVID-19 represented for his health and life, he should be vaccinated against this disease, especially since it was obligatory for minors. However, the boy's parents refused to have him inoculated, even after social workers and doctors explained the importance of this procedure.
The doctors at the Hospital had determined that the child needed to be immunized to prevent a new hospitalization in the short term and thus avoid deterioration of his health because he would probably require mechanical intubation if had to be hospitalized again.
Due to the lack of parental consent, the Hospital suspended the child's release from the institution since he had many risk factors and referred the case to the National Child Welfare Agency, Patronato Nacional de la Infancia. After review the agency authorized the Hospital to vaccinate the child. Therefore, with the approval of the National Child Welfare Agency, the Hospital vaccinated the boy against COVID-19 and then authorized his release.
During this process, and since the Hospital had not authorized the release of the minor, the parents filed a writ of habeas corpus because they claimed that the child was being held against his will and that the Hospital wanted to give him a vaccine that had no sanitary registration and had not been authorized by the Costa Rican authorities. Therefore they did not consent to it being applied to him.
Type of measure challenged
Measures, actions, remedies claimed
Individual / collective enforcement
Nature of the parties
Type of procedure
Reasoning of the deciding body
Firstly, the Court pointed out that protecting the child's best interests is a fundamental duty of the State, so its institutions must always guarantee them. Consequently, the State must provide the necessary conditions to ensure that all children enjoy the highest possible level of health, including preventive healthcare and vaccinations.
Furthermore, regarding the mandatory vaccination of minors against COVID-19, the Court indicated that according to the country's legislation, children must be vaccinated against the diseases determined by the health authorities, (as was the case with the COVID-19. It added that this vaccine did have a sanitary registration nor authorization from the health authorities and pointed out that general welfare and public health justified its obligatory nature.
Additionally, the Court indicated that under Costa Rican law, if the parents of a minor object to a medical procedure being performed on their children, health professionals were authorized to take the necessary measures to protect the minors' life and health. This was particularly clear in this case, where the risk to the minor's health if he were not elevated if here were not vaccinated against COVID-19.
On the other hand, the Court found that the prohibition of the minor's release until the vaccine was administered was also justified since it was a procedure that followed the internal protocols of the Hospital, which, in a possible case of negligence by the minor's parents, referred the case to the National Child Welfare Agency, which authorized the vaccination of the minor.
Conclusions of the deciding body
The Court considered that the mandatory vaccination, even wihtout the consent of the child's parents, was justified and a necessary measure to protect the child's life based on the child's best interests.
Fundamental Right(s) involved
- Freedom of movement of people, goods and capital
- Right to bodily integrity
- Right to health (inc. right to vaccination, right to access to reproductive health)
- Children's rights; Right to information
Fundamental Right(s) instruments (constitutional provisions, international conventions and treaties)
- Right to health, Art. 46, Costa Rican Constitution
- Freedom of movement of people, Art. 48, Costa Rican Constitution
- Children’s rights, Art. 51, Costa Rican Constitution; UN Convention on Children's Rights; Art. 25 UDHR
- Right to bodily integrity, Art. 48, Costa Rican Constitution
- Right to information, Art. 46, Costa Rican Constitution
Rights and freedoms specifically identified as (possibly) conflicting with the right to health
- Health v. freedom of movement of persons
- Health (public) v. access to health services
- Health v. children’s rights; Health v. right to information
General principle applied
- Principle of the best interests of the child
Balancing techniques and principles (proportionality, reasonableness, others)
The Court pointed out that it has been reiterative in recognizing the child's best interests as a general principle that is part of the legal system and must be applied to govern all administrative and jurisdictional activity related to the respect of the rights of minors.
On the other hand, the Court implicitly applied the principles of reasonableness and proportionality to determine whether the challenged measures were justified or not [See "Reasoning of the deciding Court].
On "type of measure challenged": The child's parents challenged the government measure that made the vaccine mandatory for minors and the decision of the Hospital, which was part of the Costa Rican Social Security Fund, and the National Child Welfare Agency not to authorize the child's release and to vaccinate him against the parents' request.