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HEALTH

EXPLAINED: How to get vaccinated in your Swiss canton

Whether or not you are a member of a coronavirus ‘risk group’, here’s how you ensure access to the coronavirus vaccine in Switzerland.

EXPLAINED: How to get vaccinated in your Swiss canton
A nurse draws a dose of vaccine from a syringe. How can you get the coronavirus vaccination in your Swiss canton? Photo: Richard Juilliart / AFP

According to the Swiss government’s vaccination plan, risk groups and essential workers will be vaccinated on a priority basis.

Switzerland has promised that “everyone who wants a coronavirus vaccination will be able to get one” by summer.

While risk groups are first in line, who exactly is in a risk group in Switzerland? And how do members of risk groups – or anyone else – get access to the vaccine? 

EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about Switzerland’s Covid-19 vaccination rollout

In order to ensure everyone gets vaccinated, authorities have set up registration sites in every Swiss canton. 

Here’s what you need to know. 

How has Switzerland’s vaccination plan been rolled out?

On December 23rd, a 90-year-old woman in the canton of Lucerne was the first person to be vaccinated in Switzerland.

As reported by The Local Switzerland, Lucerne and Appenzell Innerrhoden were the first Swiss cantons to start vaccinations. 

While widespread vaccinations of risk groups started in January, a handful of cantons already began in December. 

READ: When will coronavirus vaccinations start in your Swiss canton? 

Who will be vaccinated first in Switzerland?

According to the official government announcement, groups at risk would be vaccinated first. 

The Swiss government has laid out a plan for vaccinating everyone in risk groups aged 16 and over. 

Four ‘Target Groups’ have been identified, who will be vaccinated in order of priority. These are laid out at the bottom of this article. 

When will the vaccine be available in your canton? Photo: Fred TANNEAU / AFP

How can I make sure I get the vaccine? 

In order to get the vaccine, in the most cases you will need to register. 

While some people in high risk groups or who live in nursing homes will be contacted, for the vast majority of Swiss residents, it is up to them to register. 

‘First come, first served’: How to get the vaccine sooner in Switzerland

Vaccinations are handled by the respective cantons. 

This means that you will need to register with cantonal authorities. 

The contact details and links to registration for each of Switzerland’s 26 cantons are provided at this link

I am over 65 and/or have a chronic condition. How do I get vaccinated? 

The Federal Office of Public Health recommends that you discuss the matter with your doctor as soon as possible, if you have not done so already. 

This will ensure that you are given priority access to the vaccine. 

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

In addition, you can reach out to your cantonal health authorities. 

Each canton has set up a registration scheme to ensure access to vaccinations. While in most cantons this is targeted at the broader public, those in risk groups can also sign up. 

Details on how to register in each canton are provided at the following link

I am not in a risk group but would like to get the vaccine. How do I get vaccinated? 

While those in risk groups will have their vaccination prioritised by their doctor, or in other cases through their nursing home or hospital carer, people who are not in risk groups are encouraged to sign up via their cantonal health authorities. 

This can be done by visiting the following link

Please note some cantons have not yet set up their registration scheme for the general public, although each canton will have a date at which you can start the registration process. 

In a press conference on January 5th, the Federal Office of Public Health said that everyone who wanted to be vaccinated would be vaccinated by the end of summer 2021, although there have been some indications that this will be delayed. 

How do I register in my Swiss canton?

You can register in your Swiss canton by visiting the following link

The Local have also mapped out the process in some of the country’s most populous cantons to make it easier. 

See the following links for more information. 

READ MORE: Here’s how to register for the coronavirus vaccine in Zurich

READ MORE: How to get the coronavirus vaccine in Bern

READ MORE: How to get the coronavirus vaccine in Geneva

READ MORE: How to get the coronavirus vaccine in Basel

READ MORE: How to get the coronavirus vaccine in Vaud

What are the Target Groups?

Target Group 1: People at particular risk (excluding pregnant women) 

Given that there are shortages expected during the early stage of the vaccination plan, those in Target Group 1 have also been organised according to priority. 

Those ages 75 or over, or those who suffer from chronic diseases – regardless of age – will be given first priority. 

After that, people aged 65 and over will be given priority. 

Target Group 2: Health workers who come into contact with patients / carers for people who are particularly at risk 

Target group 2 includes health workers and carers who are in regular contact with high-risk patients, and those who take care of ‘vulnerable’ people — for instance, employees of elderly care homes.

Target Group 3: Close contacts (household members, caring relatives) of particularly vulnerable people 

Next will be people living in the same household as at-risk individuals, or people who take care of and visit high-risk individuals regularly. 

Target Group 4: People in communal facilities with an increased risk of infection and outbreak (e.g. homes for the disabled).

The fourth group will consist of those residing or working in community institutions that present a heightened risk of infection or potential for an outbreak, like institutions for people with disabilities.

There is no ‘Target Group 5’. After the four target groups have been vaccinated, the vaccinations will continue for the general public. 

More information on the target groups is laid out by Swiss health authorities at the following link

Why is the vaccination only available to those aged 16 years and over? 

As at January 2021, the Swiss government has only laid out plans to vaccinate adults. 

According to official government advice “the vaccination of children is not yet planned. The relevant study data for these age groups are currently missing.”

READ MORE: When will Switzerland start vaccinating children?

It is important to note that this was laid out before the new British coronavirus mutation was detected, which may have a greater propensity to infect younger people. 

More information will be provided on the vaccination of children as soon as it is available. 

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For members

HEALTH

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
 

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