Coronavirus vaccine: Inside Switzerland’s 200-million franc plan to achieve herd immunity

Switzerland is set to invest 200 million francs to reserve 10 million coronavirus vaccine doses. The plan is to vaccinate 60 percent of the population.

Coronavirus vaccine: Inside Switzerland’s 200-million franc plan to achieve herd immunity
Switzerland has invested considerably in coronavirus vaccine research. Photo: MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP

As reported in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung on Sunday, the goal of the scheme is to vaccinate 60 percent of the population, thereby minimising the risk of further spread should another outbreak occur. 

While Switzerland’s population is 8.5 million, 10 million doses will be reserved as two injections are needed per person. 

Not all members of the population will be vaccinated, said Nora Kronig, a spokesperson from the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health. 

“In the first phase, children should be excluded from the vaccination regime,” Kronig said. 

The government is also looking to invest 100 million francs for companies which produce and develop such vaccines, with a focus on Swiss companies. 

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”.

No priority for Swiss residents

As reported in The Local Switzerland, despite Swiss companies playing a leading role in coronavirus vaccine research, residents of Switzerland will not be prioritised if and when a vaccine becomes available. 

READ: Why Swiss residents won't have priority access to a locally-made coronavirus vaccine

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. 

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.”

Asked whether the government could compel a Swiss company such as Lonza 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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Reader question: Can I put my Swiss health insurance on hold if I’m abroad?

Given how expensive health insurance premiums are in Switzerland, you may be tempted to suspend your policy while you are abroad. Is this possible?

Reader question: Can I put my Swiss health insurance on hold if I'm abroad?

Unlike the obligatory car insurance, which you can suspend temporarily by depositing your registration plates at the local motor vehicles office, rules pertaining to health insurance are much stricter.

As the Federal Office of Public Health explains it, “If you leave the country for a certain period to travel or study but do not take up residence abroad, you are still required to have [health] insurance in Switzerland”.

In other words, as long as you are a registered resident of Switzerland, regardless of your nationality or passport, you must keep your compulsory Swiss health insurance and pay your premiums. While you do this, you also remain covered against most medical emergencies while you travel.

However, rules are less stringent for supplemental health plans which can, in some cases, be put on hold, depending on the insurance provider, according to Switzerland’s Moneyland consumer website.

The only exception allowed for suspending the health insurance coverage is during a military or civil protection service which lasts more than 60 consecutive days.

“During these periods, the risks of illness and accident are covered by military insurance. Your health insurance provider will refund your premiums”, according to FOPH.

Under what circumstances can you cancel your Swiss health insurance?

Swiss law says you can cancel your insurance if you are moving abroad, either permanently for for a period exceeding three months.

If you do so, only claims for treatments given while you still lived in Switzerland will be paid by your insurance; any medical bills for treatment incurred after you officially leave will be denied.

These are the procedures for cancelling your compulsory health insurance if you leave the country under conditions mentioned above

To announce your departure abroad, you must send your insurance carrier a letter including your name, customer number or AVS/AHV number.

You must also include a certificate from your place of residence in Switzerland confirming that you have de-registered from your current address, as well as the date of your departure.

Note, however, that if your new destination is another Swiss community / canton, rather than a foreign country, your insurance can only be cancelled from the following calendar year and only if you present proof of having taken up a new policy with another company.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to register your address in Switzerland

You can find out more information about this process here

If you suspend your health insurance for less than six years, you can reactivate it at a later date with the same company when you return to Switzerland.

READ MORE : What you should know about your Swiss health insurance before you go abroad