On 27 January 2021, during the winter session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), an overwhelming majority of those deputies who participated in the voting, adopted a Resolution on vaccination against the COVID-19 coronavirus.

The draft document was developed by the PACE Committee on Social Issues, Health and Sustainable Development. The resolution addresses various aspects of the development, procurement and use of COVID-19 vaccines in Council of Europe Member-States. Among other issues, the resolution calls on Governments to ensure that their citizens are informed that vaccination is not compulsory and that no one should feel the political, social or other pressure to get vaccinated when the person is unwilling to do so (7.3. 1 of the Resolution). PACE also calls on not to discriminate against those persons who, for health or other reasons, do not want to be vaccinated against COVID-19 (7.3.2). In the case of the introduction of “vaccination certificates”, in the opinion of the PACE deputies, they should be used only to monitor the effectiveness of the vaccine and its side effects (clause 7.5.2).

The resolution also touches on recommendations for the development of a vaccine for children and international cooperation of countries to ensure equal access to vaccines against coronavirus. To protect the health of citizens, the PACE document also calls on the participating countries to combat the spread of false information and myths about COVIDß19 vaccines (paragraph 7.3.3).

The representative of the Russian Orthodox Church in Strasbourg, Archimandrite Philip (Ryabykh), notes the good timing for the adoption of this document: “It is well known that the first vaccines against COVID-19 have already passed three main stages of testing for safety and efficacy and have been approved for use in Europe, Russia, the United States and other countries. At the same time, it should be noted with regret that we are witnessing the division of states into "privileged" States that were the first to gain access to vaccines against COVID-19 and have already begun to vaccinate their population, and "other States" which, according to forecasts, will be able to purchase vaccine against COVID-19 only by mid-2022 - early 2023. At the same time, the main criterion for this division was the economic factor. As the Secretary General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adan Ghebreyesus, who participated in the discussion of the PACE resolution via videoconference, noted in his speech, 75% of all doses of vaccines from COVID-19 have so far been distributed only among 10 countries of the world. Such an approach, according to the WHO Secretary General, exposes the poorest and most vulnerable people of the planet to unnecessary risk. In Europe, for example, Ukraine is among such countries. Therefore, we cannot but support the PACE decision to point out the importance of equitable distribution of vaccines in conditions of their limited supply (in the text of the resolution, the vaccine against COVID-19 is called “global public good”)”.

Also, according to the representative of the church, an important point in this document is the indication that vaccination in the Member-States of the Council of Europe should be carried out only on a voluntary basis, without coercion: “The explanatory report to the text of the resolution says that the refusal of vaccination (including for religious reasons) is a right guaranteed by Articles 8 and 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights (§ 61 of the Report). In addition, parliamentarians emphasize the inadmissibility of discrimination against those who, for whatever reasons (including religious ones), decided to refuse the vaccine. At the same time, the resolution speaks of the need to carry out explanatory work among the population, aimed at dispelling myths and false information about vaccines. This work is important to instill in people confidence in the effectiveness, and most importantly, the safety of vaccines against COVID-19.”

In the resolution, as well as in the explanatory report to it, the developers raised a wide range of issues related to vaccination against COVID-19, including ethical ones. Huge analytical and legal work has been done.

Resolution text link (working version of the document): https://pace.coe.int/en/files/29004/html