By requesting preliminary measures, the Rede Sustentabilidade (a political party) challenged the validity of Law no. 13.691/2022 of the Municipality of Uberlandia, which lifted compulsory vaccination against COVID-19, as well as restrictions previously imposed on unvaccinated people. The plaintiff submitted that such law not only contrasts with established case law, but also violates the population’s constitutional rights to health and life.
On 6 April 2022, the Supreme Federal Tribunal (STF) upheld the plaintiff’s request and suspended the challenged provisions. In this regard, the STF stated that mass vaccination of the population was a measure introduced by the public health authorities to reduce mortality from infectious diseases, such as COVID. The goal of the vaccination campaign is to provide herd immunity and protect the entire community, with a particular focus on vulnerable groups. The Tribunal specifically distinguished between compulsory vaccination, as enacted by the Brazilian authorities, from forceful vaccination, which must be considered unlawful. While the former assumes the individual consent to vaccination and results in the adoption of indirect measures to favour mass vaccination, such as the imposition of restrictions on certain activities and on the access to specific places, the latter would be carried out through the imposition of coercive measures, such as the forceful inoculation of the vaccine. Such restrictions must be provided for in the law and shall (i) be based on scientific evidence; (ii) be accompanied by precise information regarding their effectiveness in protecting the community; (iii) respect human dignity and the principles of reasonableness and proportionality. Furthermore, compulsory vaccination appears legitimate to the extent that restrictive measures on persons unwilling to vaccinate are consistent with the criteria set forth in Law no. 13.979/2020, namely the right to information, the right to receive home care, the right to free treatment, full respect of human dignity and fundamental freedoms, as well as the principles of reasonableness and proportionality, so as to not endanger the moral and physical integrity of anti-vaxers.
On such basis, the Court reiterated the lawfulness of compulsory vaccination since it is (i) grounded on scientific evidence; (ii) consistent with the principles of precaution and prevention; and (iii) it implies the use of indirect, not forceful measures.