Several Swiss cantons to start vaccinating all members of public
After Vaud on Monday became the first canton to start vaccinating non-risk groups, several Swiss cantons - including the country’s largest - announced their intention to follow, contravening advice from federal authorities.
While other Swiss cantons are still prioritising older adults and people with high-risk medical conditions, Vaud on Monday became the first Swiss canton to open up its inoculation programme to everyone over 18, regardless of their health status.
Now several other Swiss cantons have followed suit, despite the Federal Office of Public Health saying people in risk groups should be prioritised.
From mid-May, Solothurn, Aargau and Uri will start vaccinating the general public.
Swiss news outlet Watson reported on Wednesday morning that Zurich was set to also start vaccinating the general public from mid-May, although this has yet to be confirmed.
The FOPH said the recommendation should still be followed and that “older people should still continue to be prioritised”.
Christoph Berger, President of the Federal Commission for Vaccination Issues, told Swiss news outlet Blick : “I think it would make more sense to vaccinate the elderly first. This prevents more difficult courses”.
However, the FOPH has declined to criticise the canton’s actions, saying the goal is to ensure “everyone who wants to be vaccinated can get vaccinated as soon as possible”.
Not all cantons will make the change however.
According to Watson, the cantons of Glarus, Basel City, Appenzell Ausserrhoden, Obwalden, Graubünden, Thurgau, Nidwalden, Bern and Valais will all stick to the federal government’s prioritisation plan.
Why the change in policy?
The major reason that the cantons have changed tune on vaccine target groups has been an adaptation in the policy of the FOPH.
Previously, the FOPH said a first vaccination could not be given out until a second dose was secured.
Now, cantons have been encouraged to use up all of their doses - with the FOPH certain they will receive all promised doses in the coming months.
Swiss news outlet Watson reports that 8.1 doses are expected to be delivered before the end of July.
Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset cautiously welcomed the change.
"If all people at risk have received the first dose, there is no reason to continue to exclude the general population from the vaccinations," he said.
However, it does not appear that any of the cantons which have switched to vaccinating the general population have already fully vaccinated risk groups.