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HEALTH

Switzerland begins assessment of Oxford coronavirus vaccine

Swiss authorities have begun assessing AstraZeneca and Oxford University's Covid-19 vaccine -- the first such treatment submitted for authorisation in the country.

Switzerland begins assessment of Oxford coronavirus vaccine
A file photo showing coronavirus vaccine. Photo: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP

The vaccine is one of the most advanced Western efforts, having already been tested on tens of thousands of volunteers worldwide.

Switzerland's medical regulator Swissmedic said in a statement that the candidate vaccine had been submitted by the British-Swedish company earlier this month.

Swissmedic said it had “begun the scientific assessment” under a so-called “rolling submission” procedure, which allows pharmaceutical companies to submit applications for Covid-19 treatments before they have concluded development and without the complete supporting documentation.

READ: A Covid-19 vaccine could be made mandatory in Switzerland 

“This procedure speeds up the process of deciding whether to authorise medicinal products,” Swissmedic said, noting that it could scientifically assess non-clinical data from laboratory tests while clinical tests continue.

Trial results must be submitted to the Swiss authority as they become available, it added. European regulators are also evaluating early data from another coronavirus vaccine being developed by Germany's BioNTech and US giant Pfizer, those two firms said Tuesday, also under a fast-track procedure.

The “rolling review” is the second being conducted by the Amsterdam-based European Medicines Agency (EMA), as it already agreed to evaluate the vaccine being developed AstraZeneca and Oxford.

In normal times, pharmaceutical companies would complete their tests and compile all their findings before submitting them for review.

But scientists around the world are now racing to develop a safe, efficient Covid-19 treatment to end a pandemic that has killed more than a million people and devastated the global economy.

“It is our duty to ensure that while we are working to develop a potential vaccine at unprecedented speed to help address this pandemic, we do so with the highest ethical standards while adhering to sound scientific principles,” BioNTech CEO and co-founder Ugur Sahin said in a statement.

“We will continue to have regular and open dialogue with the EMA throughout the rolling review process.”

The potential BioNTech-Pfizer coronavirus vaccine uses technology based on mRNA, a type of genetic material never before used to make a vaccine.

READ: One in five Swiss in favour of compulsory coronavirus vaccination 

It is one of nine vaccine candidates to have advanced to late-stage human trials, known as phase 3 clinical trials, when they are tested on thousands of volunteers.

More than 37,000 people are enrolled in the BioNTech-Pfizer study in the United States, Brazil, South Africa and Argentina. More than 28,000 have recently received their second shot, the statement said. 

The EMA stressed that the decision to start an accelerated review “does not mean that a conclusion can be reached yet on the vaccine's safety and effectiveness, as much of the evidence is still to be submitted”.

BioNTech has previously said it aims to supply up to a 100 million doses by the end of 2020 if its vaccine is successful, and 1.3 billion doses by the end of 2021.

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TAXES

Masks, tests and jabs: Can I deduct Covid-related costs from my taxes in Switzerland?

Switzerland’s tax deadline is just around the corner. Are Covid-related costs tax deductible?

Masks, tests and jabs: Can I deduct Covid-related costs from my taxes in Switzerland?

March 31st is the deadline for filing taxes in Switzerland relating to the 2021 financial year. 

Over the past two years, the Covid pandemic has seen a change in our spending habits. 

While we may have saved on restaurants and travel, we laid out considerable costs on a range of new expenses, including disinfectant, masks and Covid tests. 

As some of these costs are required by law, can they be deducted from your tax?

In some cases, expenses directly related to the Covid pandemic can be deducted. 

Masks, for instance, can be deducted as medical expenses in some cantons, Swiss tax specialist Markus Stoll told 20 Minutes

This depends on the specific framework for tax deductions related to medical expenses in that canton. 

EXPLAINED: What can I deduct from my tax bill in Switzerland?

Generally speaking, any medical costs paid out of pocket can be deducted. However, most cantons impose a minimum percentage limit from which these costs can be deducted. 

In many cantons, this will start at five percent of your yearly income in total (i.e. including other out-of-pocket costs like dental or specialist visits), meaning you would need to purchase a significant amount of masks to beat the threshold. 

What about testing and vaccination?

Testing and vaccinations however were largely free as their costs were covered by the Swiss government, which means associated expenses cannot be deducted. 

Those tests which were not covered by the government – for instance for travel abroad or for visiting clubs – cannot be deducted, Stoll says. 

“Tests for travel abroad or to visit clubs are not deductible” Stoll said. 

For a complete overview of taxation in Switzerland, including several specific guides, please check out our tax-specific page here. 

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