Reader question: How does the actual vaccine process work in Switzerland?

There has been a lot of talk about the coronavirus vaccine rollout in Switzerland, but what happens when you show up for your appointment and are ready to roll up your sleeve? The Local Switzerland journalist Helena Bachmann, who has received her first injection, explains the process.

Reader question: How does the actual vaccine process work in Switzerland?
Moderna is one of the two vaccines authorised for use in Switzerland. Photo by AFP

As each Swiss canton manages its own inoculation programme, the process may vary somewhat.

Overall, however, it is very similar from canton to canton. From registration to the jab itself, here's how it works. 

First, you have to go online to register for an appointment on a special website set up by your canton’s public health office. You will see which centres have openings and when, and can choose the one that suits you best.

However, there may not be available appointments at the moment as many cantons are now waiting for deliveries of new vaccine doses. 

One reason for the scarcity of openings is that centres must keep a sufficient number of vaccines in reserve for the second round of shots for people who already received their first dose.

The criteria for getting an appointment may include, at least at this initial stage of the programme when doses are in short supply, the requirement to present a medical certificate stating that you are in the high-risk category and must receive your shot as a priority.

Some cantons don’t require this document, relying on each individual’s sense of responsibility not to try to get an appointment if they’re not in the risk group, but rather to wait when the vaccination programme opens up to general public.

READ MORE: How can I get vaccinated for Covid-19 in Switzerland? 

How does the vaccination process work in Switzerland?

I received my first shot on February 5th in Vaud.

A week before my appointment I got an email from the canton giving me the date and time for the second shot. It is on March 19th, six weeks after the first dose.

That’s because Vaud has decided to postpone the second dose of the vaccine to six weeks after the first shot, rather than maintaining the four-week timetable it had before.

This change is due to a delay in vaccine deliveries, as new batches are not expected to arrive before mid-March.

However, officials said the delay will not hamper the effectiveness or safety of the vaccine – in fact, they said the delay will improve the protection that the vaccine offers.

READ MORE: Swiss canton postpones second vaccine doses by six weeks 

When I arrived for my 10:30 am appointment, I was asked to present my ID and health insurance card, and to disinfect my hands.

I was then taken to one of several cubicles.

The person who was about to vaccinate me asked if I had a fever or felt unwell. When I said no, he got the syringe ready, telling me it was a Moderna vaccine, one of the two currently available in Switzerland. The other is from Pfizer /BioNtech.

There was a little burn and a feeling of slight pressure when the needle was inserted, but it all took just a few seconds.

After the shot, I was taken to another room and asked to sit there for 15 minutes to make sure I didn’t have any adverse reactions. Several other people were sitting there already, with chairs spaced about 2 metres apart, everyone wearing a mask.

This is a standard procedure to ensure that in the rare event of extreme allergic reaction to the vaccine, which usually happens within minutes, help could be given immediately.

I felt fine, as did everyone else sitting there. After 15 minutes I was told I could leave. By the time I got home, I already received a vaccination certificate by email, confirming the date of the vaccine, the type, and the batch number. Once I get the second shot, that information will be added, and the document will serve as my vaccination record.

My overall impression is that the whole process was quick, well organised and professional. The only reaction I’ve had was a sore arm the first day. No other side effects whatsoever.

READ MORE: Why has Switzerland ordered over 30 million doses of coronavirus vaccine? 

Member comments

  1. An excellent and accurate article, 99% in line with my own experience having received the first shot on 28 jan in Yverdon; only difference is that my arm didn’t get sore 🙂

  2. I’m 73, have several comorbidities, yet I haven’t received any information nor instructions whatsoever about what I need to do to get my vaccinations. I’m in Geneva.

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Reader question: What proof of vaccination will Switzerland require for Americans and Brits to enter?

Starting on June 28th, vaccinated travellers from third countries, including Americans, will be allowed to come to Switzerland without having to show a negative Covid test or quarantine upon arrival.

Reader question: What proof of vaccination will Switzerland require for Americans and Brits to enter?
Vaccination in a foreign country can be proven with an official certificate. Photo: JAIME REINA / AFP

“In view of the positive developments in the epidemiological situation and the progress made in the field of vaccination, the Federal Council is proposing to greatly relax the prescriptions and health measures at the border for people entering Switzerland”, authorities announced on June 11th.

They specified, however, that final decision on this move will be made on June 23rd.

READ MORE: Switzerland set to reopen its borders to vaccinated Americans

However, if the number of infections, hospitalisations and deaths will remain the same as now — or, better yet, drop further — vaccinated tourists from outside the Schengen zone will be able to come to Switzerland before the end of June.

What proof of vaccination will those travellers have to show to enter the country?

Basically, the requirements for residents of third nations are the same as for people coming from the EU/EFLA states.

The proof showing you have been fully vaccinated should be an official document issued by a recognised health authority in your country of residence.

The document, which can be either on your smart phone or in paper form, must have your name and date of birth, dates when both doses were administered (or a single dose in case of a Johnson & Johnson vaccine), as well as the name and batch number of the vaccine.

READ MORE: Reader question: How do I prove in Switzerland that I’ve been vaccinated abroad?

Another important requirement is that the vaccine you received is authorised for use in the European Union and, therefore, in Switzerland.

So far, the European Medicines Agency has approved vaccines from Pfizer/Biontech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson.

In addition to these two, Switzerland will also accept the Chinese vaccines Sinopharm and Sinovac for entry. 

One thing to keep in mind is that the travel should take place at least 14 days after the second dose, which is when immunity to coronavirus is believed to fully kick in.

The same rules apply to people coming from the so-called “high-variant” countries (VOC) which at the moment include Brazil, Canada, India, South Africa, Nepal, and the UK.

They can enter Switzerland if fully vaccinated with proper proof.

Otherwise, they must present a negative PCR or antigen test taken no more than 72 days before arriving in Switzerland.

They will then have to quarantine for 10 or seven days.

However, Russia’s Sputnik V, as well as China’s Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines have not received European or Swiss approval to date.

Does this mean travellers from Russia, China, and other countries that don’t use EU-approved vaccines can’t come to Switzerland?

They can still come, but will be required to present a negative PCR or antigen test taken no more than 72 hours before arriving in Switzerland.

They will then have to quarantine for 10 or seven days.

This rule pertains not only to foreign visitors, but also to Swiss citizens and permanent residents returning from abroad.

Will the Covid certificate be sufficient proof?

If it is internationally recognized, which means valid in the EU and Switzerland, then yes.

Switzerland’s certificate will be ready by July 1st. However, not all countries may have these immunity passports ready for use before you travel abroad.

If this is the case, then a proper vaccine document, as mentioned above, will suffice.

READ MORE: How to get Switzerland’s Covid-19 health pass