Can new Johnson and Johnson vaccine solve Switzerland’s inoculation shortage?

Can new Johnson and Johnson vaccine solve Switzerland's inoculation shortage?
Switzerland may be ordering a vaccine from Johnson & Johnson. Photo by Phil Magakoe / AFP
A single-dose coronavirus vaccine from US manufacturer Johnson & Johnson is expected to be approved in Switzerland in March - but will it help tackle the vaccine shortage?

The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) has been negotiating with the manufacturer since January, but has not yet said when the order will be placed or how many doses will be purchased, Switzerland’s Tages Anzeiger newspaper reports.

Vaccines are in short supply in Switzerland, even though the country ordered doses from five different manufacturers: 13.5 million doses from Moderna, 3 million doses from Pfizer/BioNtech, 6 million doses from Novavax, 5 million from Curevac, and 5.3 million from AstraZeneca.

However, to date only Moderna and Pfizer are in use in Switzerland, and even those doses are in short supply, though some more will likely be delivered in March and April.

Deliveries from Novavax and Curevac are not expected until May, although the two manufacturers are looking to be approved from the European Union within days.

Switzerland declined to approve the AstraZeneca vaccine in early February and it looks unlikely to be approved because there are doubts about its effectiveness, the regulatory agency Swissmedic said. 

In fact, Switzerland is reportedly investigating the possibility of selling the doses it agreed to buy from AstraZeneca because “it has a bad reputation”, said Nora Kronig, FOPH’s deputy director.

“In the current situation, Switzerland is not dependent on the vaccines from AstraZeneca”, she noted.

READ MORE: Switzerland considers selling millions of AstraZeneca vaccine doses 

Unlike the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine, which require two shots about four weeks apart, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires only one injection, although its efficacy is believed to be slightly lower than the 94 to 95 percent effectiveness attributed to Moderna and Pfizer products.

Where is Switzerland now with its inoculation programme?

As of February 21st, 866,425 vaccines were delivered to cantons, and 675, 556 were administered with 173,407 having received both doses.

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

But as the chart below indicates, Switzerland’s rate of vaccinations is low compared to the UK, France, Italy, and Spain.


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