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EXPLAINED: Why are Swiss doctors and pharmacists launching their own vaccination certificate?

Although Switzerland’s government has been working on an internationally-recognised “immunity card” to be introduced this summer, the country’s medical professionals and pharmacists will offer their own version. Here’s why.

EXPLAINED: Why are Swiss doctors and pharmacists launching their own vaccination certificate?
Dctors who vaccinate in their offices have information available to issue Covid certificates. Photo by COLE BURSTON / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

The Federation of Swiss Doctors (FMH) and the umbrella organisation of pharmacists PharmaSuisse announced that they would launch a Covid certificate for those who have been vaccinated or recovered from the disease.

It would be independent of the government’s version, the two organisations said in a joint statement.

Why are doctors and pharmacists launching their own Covid immunity card?

The main reason is that, according to the two organisations, the government is too slow in creating the certificate, which is scheduled to be released in the summer.

“If the government certificates are available, as planned, at the end of June, the vaccinations of hundreds of thousands of people entered manually in the vaccination record would then have to be quickly converted into an international Covid certificate, which would create a massive administrative burden and delays”, FMH and PharmaSuisse said.

The doctor-pharmacy version should be ready at the end of May, at least a month before the Federal Council’s.

“Time plays a big role, Waiting for the government’s vaccination card is likely to be very costly”,  said PharmaSuisse President Martine Ruggli.

What advantages does this version offer?

Doctors’ offices, pharmacies, hospitals and vaccination centres “are the main points of contact for Covid vaccinations and testing. It is obvious and appropriate that healthcare providers who test, vaccinate and issue vaccination certificates also issue Covid certificates”, the associations said.

And the FMH and PharmaSuisse pointes out that their certificate can be implemented rapidly because it can integrate existing software solutions that vaccination centres, hospitals, doctor’s offices and pharmacies are already using.

“Since there is no need to build a new infrastructure or develop new software applications, it can therefore be implemented quickly”, they noted.

There’s no word yet about what this version of the card will look like.

READ MORE: Pharmacy vs GP vs vaccination centre: Where should I get vaccinated in Switzerland?

What does the government think of the alternate certificate?

“The efforts of each party to find a solution must be welcomed”,  the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) told Watson news portal.

The FOPH added that the government “remains in contact with these two important partners in the healthcare system. Their expertise will continue to be integrated and taken into account in current federal procedures.”

But can the two certificates – the one from the government and the other from FMH and PharmaSuisse — co-exist?

“The EU stipulates that several providers per country can issue vaccination certificates. This is also the case in Switzerland”, the two organisations said.

What is a coronavirus immunity card anyway?

As The Local already explained, the card – which would be in digital form – is expected to have two major functions: domestic and international. 

The government said it aims “to develop a standardised, forgery-proof and internationally recognised certificate”. 

On the one hand it will form part of an international arrangement which will allow for travel to again take place. 

On the other, it will allow certain privileges to people domestically – for instance visiting bars and restaurants, along with events and participating in sports and leisure activities. 

This will not however mean two separate cards – all functions will instead be placed on the one document.

READ MORE: UPDATED: Everything you need to know about the ‘green pass’, Switzerland’s coronavirus immunity card

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