EXPLAINED: What you need to know about Covid vaccines for under 18s in Switzerland
Switzerland has approved vaccinations for children 12 and over against coronavirus, with the government confirming that parental consent to vaccinate is not necessary. Here's what you need to know.
Health experts believe that achieving herd immunity — with about 80 percent of the population developing antibodies to the virus — is only feasible if all age groups are vaccinated.
For Switzerland, this means that 6.9 million people out of the total population of 8.6 million have to develop antibodies against the coronavirus either through vaccination or infection, though this proportion could increase with new mutations.
Children and young people make up 18 percent of the population in Switzerland.
What are the rules for vaccinating children and teenagers in Switzerland?
Switzerland has approved the use of the Pfizer-Biontech vaccine for people aged 16 and above.
Switzerland confirmed that it will extend its vaccination program to people aged 12 and above from mid-July, however this was brought forward in late June.
In early August, Switzerland approved the Moderna vaccine for people as young as 12.
On June 23rd, the Swiss government decided that vaccinations could start for children as young as 12 immediately.
Whether people aged 12 to 17 receive the vaccine is a matter for the cantons, however several cantons started vaccinating people from 16 and up months ago.
Vaccinations of children are considered to be essential to the Swiss inoculation strategy, which aims to reach herd immunity in the population.
“We are doing everything in our power to ensure that vaccination is also accessible for children and adolescents as soon as possible”, said Anne Lévy, director of the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH).
Do parents need to consent for their children to be vaccinated?
No. Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset confirmed to parliament that parental consent is not required in order for children to be vaccinated.
While some parents, particularly those who are sceptical about vaccines, may be dismayed by the decision, the position is valid in Swiss law.
Berset said minors from the age of 12 and up were “largely capable of judgement” and therefore can make their own decisions with regard to vaccinations, provided they are mentally healthy and conscious.
Where a child from the age of 12 satisfies this standard “no parental or legal guardian consent is required”.
Parents are only allowed to have a say on whether their child gets vaccinated if the child is incapacitated or otherwise unable to make the decision.
"Only if a child or a young person is incapable of judgment do the owners of parental authority have to give consent to the vaccination,” concludes Switzerland’s Federal Office of Public Health.
Please note: This story was updated on June 23rd to reflect the Swiss government's decision to bring vaccinations for 12 to 15-year-olds forward from mid-July to June 23rd; this story was also updated on August 10th when the Moderna vaccine was approved.