Switzerland lines up fourth Covid-19 vaccine to help tackle pandemic

Health authorities in Switzerland are hoping that a new coronavirus vaccine will help boost Switzerland’s arsenal against Covid-19.

Switzerland lines up fourth  Covid-19 vaccine to help tackle pandemic
The delivery of Pfizer vaccine is delayed. Photo by AFP

The Swiss government is reportedly negotiating a supply agreement for the vaccine with the American company Johnson & Johnson,  NZZ newspaper said

The company is expected to release results of a large clinical trial early next week.

Without specifically mentioning Johnson & Johnson, Nora Kroning from the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) said last week that Switzerland continues “to be in negotiations, to see how we can boost volumes,” of the vaccine doses the country already has in stock.

If the deal goes through, Johnson & Johnson would be Switzerland’s fourth supplier of coronavirus vaccines, after Pfizer/BioNtech (3 million doses), Moderna (4.5 million) and AstraZeneca (5.3 million doses).

So far, only Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been approved for use in Switzerland and in the EU.

Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is different in that only a single dose would be enough to build up immunity, while the other vaccines require two doses to be administered four weeks apart.

Another advantage of this new vaccine is that it doesn’t have to be stored for months in the refrigerator.

READ MORE: IN NUMBERS: What's the latest on Switzerland's vaccination programme? 

There’s no set date on when Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine might be available in Switzerland, but it would likely take a few months, as it would have to be first tested for efficacy and safety by the country’s drug regulator, Swissmedic.

Switzerland needs the fourth vaccine to fill the gap left by the slowdown in the delivery of Pfizer doses, which is causing delays in the inoculation programme.

“Planning has become a huge headache. We have to modify our vaccination plan several times a day”, Laurent Paoliello, spokesperson for Geneva’s Department of Health, told Tribune de Genève. 

“These uncertainties are so problematic because it is necessary to know the dates and the quantity of deliveries in order  to ensure that people vaccinated today will receive their second dose one month later”, he added.

Other cantons are facing the same delays and, consequently, long wait periods for patients to get their shots.

READ MORE: MAPS: Which Swiss cantons are vaccinating fastest against coronavirus? 




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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?