Will the referendum campaign for a Swiss-made vaccine succeed?

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Will the referendum campaign for a Swiss-made vaccine succeed?
Empty vials of Oxford/AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine are seen at a vaccination centre in Antwerp, Belgium March 18, 2021. REUTERS/Yves Herman

An organisation which calls for "an independent and neutral Switzerland" has launched a campaign to hold a referendum on producing a vaccine locally.


Auns, an organisation which agitates for an independent and neutral Switzerland, has launched a campaign to hold a referendum on locally-produced vaccines. 

Werner Gartenmann, the chairman of the organisation, told 20 Minutes that the pandemic had showed Switzerland's "catastrophic reliance" on foreign countries. 

"You can't be perfect in a crisis. But the pandemic has scratched the image of well-organised Switzerland," the spokesperson said. 

The referendum would not only call for domestic vaccine production but it would also require a range of other products to be made locally. 

"We want to force the federal government and the cantons to take the various threat scenarios - from pandemics to blackouts to cyberattacks - seriously."

Auns, which is affiliated with the right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP), said this would be one of a number of referenda launched this year to improve Switzerland's independence. 

In addition to vaccines, the organisation is pushing for medical supplies, personal protective equipment and medicines to be produced locally. 


Gartenmann pointed to shortages - particularly during the first wave of the pandemic - as evidence for why a change was needed. 

"Moldy masks in the camps of the army pharmacy and a lack of disinfectants or vaccines can no longer exist (in Switzerland)," he said. 

"Switzerland needs its own vaccine research and production again. The same applies to important drugs such as antibiotics.

"It is frightening that the Federal Council and the responsible federal offices are apparently not yet willing to learn the lessons from the mistakes.

"We are aware that Switzerland can never be completely self-sufficient for a long time. But what the pandemic year shows is catastrophic."

The centre-left Social Democrats indicated they may be in support of the plan, but would need to see more details. 

"We are pleased when the right-wing slowly comes to realise that the free market cannot regulate everything. If the Auns suggests something right, then the sender doesn't matter to me," said Social Democrats co-president Cédric Wermuth. 



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