Covid-19 vaccination in Switzerland: Who is liable for severe side effects?

Serious side effects following vaccinations, including the coronavirus one, are rare. But if they do happen, who in Switzerland will be held liable?

Covid-19 vaccination in Switzerland: Who is liable for severe side effects?
Severe side effects from there Covid vaccine are rare. Photo by AFP

In the event of acute reactions caused by the vaccine, the manufacturer, the person who administers the vaccine, or the Swiss government may be held responsible, depending on circumstances, according to a bulletin published by the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) on Monday .

FOPH defined “serious damage” as the one “leading to significant health or economic effects for the vaccinated person. Temporary or lasting incapacity for work, for example, constitutes serious damage”.

On the other hand, minor side effects like redness or swelling caused by injection, headache, muscle pain, or slight fever, all of which are normal temporary reactions to any vaccine, are not considered to be severe.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Five questions about Covid-19 vaccines in Switzerland

The liability will depend on who inflicts the damage, FOPH said. There are three possible scenarios:

Defective product

The manufacturer — in this case, Pfizer/BioNtech or Moderna — will be held liable if the product is found to be defective and the person suffers serious side effects, assuming the vaccine is used as intended.

The person who administers the vaccine

The practitioner's ‘duty of care’ covers the correct inoculation process. But if the vaccine is not given as it should be, resulting in significant damage to the patient, then the vaccination centre or the person administering the vaccine can be held responsible.

The government

If a grave side effect occurs but can’t be attributed to either the manufacturer or the provider, and if the damage resulting from the vaccination is not fully covered by insurance, then the federal government can grant compensation to the victim in the amount of up to 70,000 francs.

However, the fact that health authorities are recommending the vaccine doesn’t in itself imply their responsibility for any damages, FOPH stressed.

READ MORE: Swiss authorities dismiss claim woman died due to vaccination


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‘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?