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VACCINES

EXPLAINED: How Switzerland is speeding up its vaccination programme

With deliveries of millions of vaccines planned from April on, Switzerland’s largest cities are ramping up their infrastructure allowing them to inoculate thousands of people each day.

EXPLAINED: How Switzerland is speeding up its vaccination programme
Vaccinations will increase in Switzerland. Photo by JACOB KING / POOL / AFP

Swiss authorities have said numerous times that they want to vaccinate everyone who wants it by July.

To accomplish this ambitious goal, some cities have set up vaccination units in big venues where inoculations can be given to thousands of people every day.

One such centre is the enormous Zurich Exhibition Hall, which can administer 4,000 shots daily and opened up on April 6th.

READ MORE: Zurich launches coronavirus vaccination registration to general public

Another is in Basel’s equally large exhibition centre, where thousands of vaccines are given as well.

Now two more cities are opening their own massive venues.

From April 19th, Geneva will vaccinate on the grounds of its Palexpo centre, which will offer a potential injection capacity of 4,000 doses per day.

And Vaud’s capital, Lausanne, is setting up its unit at the Beaulieu conference centre.

But given that cantons have had to slow down the pace of their vaccination programme due to  the delay in the vaccine supply in previous months, will there be enough doses to actually inoculate tens of thousands of people each day?

Switzerland is expecting the delivery of 1.5 million doses vaccines in April, followed by 3 million more doses between May and July. If that happens, the country may well meet its July target date.

In all, the government ordered 13.5 million doses of Moderna vaccine, 6 million each of Pfizer / Biontech and Novavax, 5.3 million of AstraZeneca, and 5 million of Curevac. So far, only the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are being administered in Switzerland. 

To date, over 1.6 million people have received their shots, of whom 604,312 are fully vaccinated.

READ MORE: Travel agency offers ‘vaccination holiday’ from Switzerland to Russia

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COVID-19

‘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?

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