Why Swiss residents won’t have priority access to a locally-made coronavirus vaccine

Switzerland on Wednesday pledged 300 million francs - and enlisted the defence department - in a bid to find a coronavirus vaccine. If the research is successful, why can’t Swiss residents be prioritised?

The Swiss government on Wednesday announced a 300 million franc ($US310 million) coronavirus vaccine fund. 

In addition to discovering a vaccine for Covid-19, the goal of the fund is to secure enough doses for each and every one of Switzerland’s 8.6 million residents – although the government has said Swiss residents cannot be prioritised over people from other countries should the attempts be successful. 

The need to prioritise international collaboration as well as maintain trade regulations means that one country’s residents should not be prioritised over another. 

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Why won’t Swiss residents get priority? 

The government said it wanted to ensure all Swiss residents had access to the vaccine, but also wanted to make sure other countries were able to access it as well. 

The money will be made available to Swiss companies working towards finding a vaccine, including those working with companies from other nations. 

Swiss biotech company Lonza, in partnership with American firm Moderna, announced earlier in the week that the first phase of its coronavirus vaccine trials showed “excellent results”. 

Should a vaccine eventually be discovered, there are concerns that it will be made available only to the highest bidder – i.e. wealthy countries or the wealthiest people in society. 

Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset said on Wednesday an international collaboration was the best way to get a vaccine as fast as possible, rather than having several countries working against each other trying to invent the same wheel. 

“First, we have to have a vaccine. The WHO is working on it,” Berset said. 

“We (Switzerland) are taking a pioneering role when it comes to vaccines. 

“The world is working together. There will not be 120 different vaccines, but instead there will be a few promising candidates.”

International partnerships are essential in coronavirus testing. Image: Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

Asked whether the government could compel a Swiss company such as Lonza – who make the active ingredient in the vaccine currently being trialled in partnership with US company Moderna – to provide the vaccine first to Swiss citizens, Berset said it was unrealistic and contrary to principles of international trade that Swiss residents would get first dibs. 

“We are interested in the end product. We need a finished vaccine that protects people. A mere component of the vaccine is of no use to us.”

““The active ingredient is to be manufactured in Switzerland. The countries that have the final product must ensure that the distribution among the countries is guaranteed. 

“The Swiss population will have good access to a vaccine.”

Production lines for the vaccine are being created in both the United States and in Visp, Switzerland. 

 


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