Virginie Masserey, head of the infection control unit at the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), said on Sunday that officials are planning to immunise up to 70,000 people every day throughout Switzerland.
In all, their goal is to vaccinate 6 million residents — out of Switzerland’s total population of 8.5 million — until July, Masserey said.
Groups at risk would be vaccinated first. They include essential healthcare workers, the elderly, as well as people with diabetes, chronic lung disease and high blood pressure.
Masserey added that preparations for the rollout in Switzerland “are in advanced stages”.
By the end of December, the military, which is in charge of distributing the doses to each canton, will have all the storage facilities for vaccines in place.
For their part, cantons are working on setting up vaccination units, which include premises such as gyms, civil protection facilities, and exhibition centres — large venues allowing to vaccinate as many people as possible at one time.
Hospitals, doctors’ practices and pharmacies will be able to vaccinate people as well, though on a less massive scale.
Launching a vaccination programme “is extremely complicated logistically”, Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset said last week.
One of the reasons is that the highly perishable vaccines must be kept in ultra-cold warehouses. If necessary, the military will provide ice to safely store the doses, as most locations don't have specialised freezers that maintain extremely low temperatures.
Switzerland purchased approximately 13 million doses of coronavirus vaccine from three manufacturers: Moderna (4.5 million doses), AstraZeneca (5.3 million) and Pfizer (3 million ).
Masserey said that Switzerland's vaccination strategy revolves around three objectives.
The first is to lower the number of severe cases, the second to maintain the capacity of the health system, and the third to reduce the economic consequences of the disease.
Initially at least, FOPH does not aim at group immunity or elimination of the virus because “we don't know if it is possible”, Masserey said.