Reader question: Why can't I choose which Covid vaccine I get in Switzerland?
Swiss vaccination centres don’t give you a choice of the vaccine that is injected into your arm, unlike some other countries. There are reasons why this is the case.
Some countries allow people to choose which vaccine they will receive. However, in Switzerland that is not the case.
Which vaccines are available in Switzerland?
The only two vaccines that have been administered in Switzerland since the beginning of the programme in late December 2020, are the ones manufactured by Pfizer / Biontech and Moderna.
If you walk into a vaccination centre anywhere in Switzerland and ask for a Sputnik V vaccine, you can be sure you will not be getting it.
That’s because Swiss authorities have not purchased any doses of this vaccine from Russia.
So why can’t you decide which of the two you get?
The reason has to do with supply and logistics.
The federal government distributes doses to cantons based on the delivery of the vaccines from the manufacturer and the number of doses received.
“It is the availability of the vaccine that will be decisive”, said Virginie Masserey, head of infection control unit at the Federal Office of Public Health.
To date, Switzerland has purchased 13.5 million doses from Moderna and 6 million doses from Pfizer. This means the likelihood of getting a Moderna vaccine is statistically higher, but if your centre received Pfizer doses, then that’s what you’ll get.
The government also ordered 6 million doses of the Novavax vaccine and 5 million of Curevac. These two have not been delivered yet, but when they do become available, it is unlikely you will get to choose, for the same logistical reasons.
Not having a choice in the matter doesn’t pertain specifically to Covid vaccines. When you get a flu shot, you typically don’t have that option either — you get whatever your doctor or clinic have at their disposal.
Keep in mind that Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are not dramatically different. In fact, they are very similar in the kind of technology they use (the so-called RNA), their efficacy (over 90 percent for both), safety, and possible side effects.
So while we are accustomed to having a choice and expressing our preferences in many matters, this option is not offered for vaccines.