UPDATE: Will Switzerland approve the AstraZeneca vaccine?
Several European countries have made a u-turn to now recommend the AstraZeneca vaccine. Switzerland is considering following suit.
Swiss authorities have not yet approved Covid vaccine from AstraZeneca.
However, Anne Lévy, the director of the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), said on Tuesday she was hoping the AstraZeneca vaccine would be approved in the coming weeks.
What is happening with AstraZeneca in Europe?
Several European countries have changed their tune on the AstraZeneca vaccine in recent days.
Germany, Italy, France and Austria all decided to approve the vaccine for people over 65s over the past week, overturning a previous recommendation that it only be used for people under 65.
After refusing to approve the vaccine for people in any age group due to “insufficient data”, Switzerland previously said it may sell it on or give it away “because AstraZeneca's vaccine has a bad reputation”.
Lévy told Swiss newspaper Watson on Tuesday the country was ready to start distributing the vaccine as soon as approval came through.
"We are waiting for approval by Swissmedic and would be happy if this happens," she said.
"We are still counting on it and hope that it will be approved in the next few weeks. Then we'll use it too, it's a good vaccine."
She also denied reports the Swiss government was trying to sell the vaccine.
"That is not right", she said.
Approving AstraZeneca to speed up vaccinations
As vaccines are in short supply in Switzerland because of delayed deliveries, health politician Verena Herzog said AstraZeneca doses should be approved.
“It is clear more vaccines are urgently needed. Safety is undoubtedly important. But 6.5 million people in Great Britain have been vaccinated with it and they have had very good experiences”, she said.
New evidence indicates that this vaccine is effective.
“New studies show an 80 percent reduction in hospitalisations for patients vaccinated with the Astra-Zeneca vaccine, and also a 60 percent less symptomatic infections after one dose”, said Christoph Berger, head of the Federal Commission for Vaccination Issues.
“These data is very good, but still has to be verified”, he added.
Switzerland’s drug authorisation agency Swissmedic has not confirmed whether it would reconsider approving the vaccine in view of new evidence.
It may stall the approval process though after a 49-year-old nurse died in Austria over the weekend following an AstraZeneca vaccination, and a 30-year-old hospital employee suffered serious complications after the same vaccine.
AstraZeneca has been in use in the UK and the European Union, but Austria withdrew the batch with which the victim was inoculated while its authorities investigate.
To date, apart from AstraZeneca, Switzerland purchased vaccines from Pfizer / Biontech (3 million doses), Moderna (13.5 million), Curevac (5 million) and Novavax (6 million).
So far, only Pfizer and Moderna doses are used in Switzerland.