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VACCINE

Has Switzerland’s Covid vaccine rollout become a ‘fiasco’?

Officials say Switzerland is not well prepared for the coronavirus inoculation process now underway.

Has Switzerland's Covid vaccine rollout become a 'fiasco'?
Pfizer vaccine is here but the rollout is slow. Photo by AFP

Thirteen Swiss cantons — Vaud, Basel-City, Basel-Country, Geneva, Fribourg, Neuchâtel, Valais, Solothurn, Lucerne, Zug, Schwyz, Nidwalden and Appenzell Innerrhoden — have already started vaccinating their at-risk populations at the end of December, and the other 13 will gradually begin this week and throughout January.

But some in the country claim the process is too slow and inefficient.

“Our immunisation programme is a fiasco that costs lives every day and will destroy our economy for months to come”, lawmaker Philippe Nantermod said in an interview on Monday. 

The MP representing Valais added that the country “is clearly late” in its inoculation process, especially when compared to nations of similar size, like Israel, where 13 percent of the population have already received their first shot.

 

One of the reasons why the rollout is not progressing at a faster pace may be that not enough doses are available at the moment.

Switzerland ordered approximately 13 million doses from three manufacturers: Moderna (4.5 million doses), AstraZeneca (5.3 million) and Pfizer / Biontech (3 million).

So far, however, only the Pfizer vaccine has been approved for use in Switzerland, but just 107,000 doses have been delivered so far.

“Switzerland ordered only a fraction of the vaccine it really needs,” Andreas Faller, former vice-director of FOPH told the SonntagsZeitung.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What you should know about Switzerland’s Covid-19 vaccination rollout 

Another challenge, Vaud’s Health Minister Rebecca Ruiz said, lays in setting up adequate vaccination infrastructure. 

She noted that Vaud asked federal authorities whether the army, which is responsible for delivering doses to the cantons, could also help set up mobile vaccination units.

“But our request was refused, so we are left to our own devices”, she pointed out.

Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset did say that the first round of immunisations will be “low volumes”. 

He also conceded that launching a new vaccination programme “is extremely complicated logistically”.

READ MORE: How Switzerland is setting up its unprecedented vaccination infrastructure 

 

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COVID-19

‘Over a million people’ in Switzerland could be infected with Covid this summer

Though Covid has not been a nationwide problem in Switzerland during recent several months, the virus is circulating again and rates of contamination are expected to soar in the coming weeks.

'Over a million people' in Switzerland could be infected with Covid this summer

While the new wave has not been expected to hit before fall or winter,  Swiss health officials now say 15 percent of Swiss population — more than 1 million people — could catch the virus before then.

This is a large number, considering that a total of 3.7 million people in Switzerland got infected since the beginning of the pandemic on February 24th, 2020.

“More than 80,000 new contaminations per week” are expected in the next two months, according to Tanja Stadler, the former head of the Covid-19 Task Force — much more than during the past two summers, when the rate of infections slowed down.

At the moment, the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) reports 24,704 new cases in the past seven days — double of what it was in April.

“The numbers are expected to continue to rise. Note that most of infected people will not be tested, so the number of confirmed cases will be smaller on paper than in reality”, Stadler added.

Although according to FOPH, nearly all cases in Switzerland (99 percent) are caused by Omicron and its sub-variants, which are less severe that the original Covid viruses, “more vulnerable people are likely to end up in hospital, and long Covid cases are also likely to rise”, she said.

Stadler also noted that Omicron virus can’t be compared with the flu, “because we observe long-term consequences much more often during an infection with Omicron than during the flu. Also, Covid can trigger very large waves, even in summer, while large flu outbreaks are rare at this time of year”.

There is, however, some positive news.

“The most recent data shows that 97 percent of the adult population in Switzerland has antibodies against Covid thanks to vaccinations and previous infections”, Stadler said.

Also, “in the long term, things will stabilise. But in the years to come, there will probably be waves in the summer too”.

READ MORE: UPDATE: When will Switzerland roll out second Covid boosters?

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