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IN NUMBERS: How Switzerland’s ‘slow’ vaccination rollout protects the most vulnerable

IN NUMBERS: How Switzerland's ‘slow’ vaccination rollout protects the most vulnerable
A man is vaccinated a dose of Moderna vaccine against the Covid-19 at a newly-opened vaccination center in Lausanne, Switzerland. Photo: VALENTIN FLAURAUD / AFP
Switzerland's vaccine rollout is slowly, but surely, hitting its stride - particularly with regard to the most vulnerable members of the population. Here's what you need to know.

After a slow start, Switzerland’s vaccination scheme is gradually picking up speed.

The impact of this campaign can most clearly be seen in the positive effect it has had on the number of hospitalisations and deaths. 

ANALYSIS: Why are Switzerland’s coronavirus numbers falling so sharply?

As at May 20th, Switzerland has administered 42.5 shots per 100 people — less than many other European countries — which can be seen in the following graphic. 

Importantly however, 11 percent of Switzerland’s population has been fully vaccinated (having received two doses).

As a result, Switzerland has the fourth highest percentage of fully vaccinated people when compared to EU and EFTA countries, behind only Denmark, Spain and Italy. 

Why the discrepancy between first and second shots?

This is a policy outcome reflecting the government’s focus on ensuring the most vulnerable were fully vaccinated, rather than getting shots to as many people as possible. 

The first priority for Swiss authorities was people aged over 75, people with chronic diseases and those in retirement and care homes. 

People who work in retirement and care homes are also in the first priority group. 

Switzerland’s focus on the most vulnerable can be seen in its policy for second doses. 

Swiss policy until late April was to have each canton reserve a second dose for each person who had received their first dose. 

This meant that while there were doses being kept in storage, these were kept secure for people who had already had one dose. 

This policy was changed in late April, when the government encouraged cantons to use up their reserves – a policy change which was at least in part motivated by increases in available supply. 

READ MORE: Switzerland tells cantons to use up their vaccine reserves

Another reason is the short period of time between first and second doses. 

While many countries have recommended anywhere from six weeks to 16 weeks between doses, Switzerland stuck to a four-week gap until late April

On April 21st, Swiss health experts changed their recommendation for the time between doses from four to six weeks. 

While this is likely to result in slight delays in getting people fully vaccinated in cantons that follow this recommendation, the impact can already be seen in the percentage of people who have been fully protected. 

Another reason is the vaccines which are administered in Switzerland. 

Switzerland, unlike almost every country in Europe, uses exclusively mRNA vaccines (i.e. those produced by Moderna and Biontech/Pfizer).

AstraZeneca was never approved in Switzerland, while although Johnson and Johnson was approved, the government declined to purchase any doses

In countries that have administered AstraZeneca, the time between doses has tended to be longer than that for the mRNA vaccines (although not in every case), resulting in more people having only one shot (at least initially). 

More information on how Switzerland’s vaccination campaign is progressing – and where it stands with regard to other countries – can be seen at the following link. 

COMPARE: Which countries are leading the race to vaccinate in Europe?

Government purchases vaccines for 2022

The federal government has signed another contract with the biotech firm Moderna “to ensure a sufficient supply of the vaccine for 2022”, the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) announced on Thursday.

The new contract provides for the delivery of 7 million doses in early 2022, with the option of buying 7 million additional  doses during the course of 2022.

“This means Switzerland is well equipped to tackle future virus mutations”, FOPH said, adding that  “Moderna is currently researching a booster shot that will also target emerging virus strains to ensure a high level of protection”.


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