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Swiss cantons reject 50-franc reward for Covid vaccination

Switzerland will no longer offer a 50-franc bonus for getting vaccinated, after resistance from the cantons defeated the idea.

Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset against a grey background at a Covid press conference
Switzerland will not be offering a 50 franc bonus for the vaccinated, after the cantons opposed the idea. FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

On October 1st, Switzerland had announced the bonus would be coming into effect to boost the country’s lagging vaccination rate. 

The offer had been put out to the cantons for consultation. 

On Wednesday, October 13th, the cantons emphatically said no to the idea. 

Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset – who was one of the architects of the idea – said the rejection of the bonus was “unsurprising”. 

Instead, Switzerland will launch a national vaccination offensive – the centrepiece of which will be a vaccination week in November – to help the country catch up. 

The offensive will be centred around an information drive, with “advice by means of group discussions, personal or telephone contacts or via the individual chat function in social media”.

50 francs: What is Switzerland’s new ‘vaccination bonus’?

Cantonal authorities were worried the bonus would anger those who had already been vaccinated, or discourage some from getting vaccinated until a later date in hope of more bonuses. 

What was Switzerland’s bonus scheme? 

The bonuses were not to be paid to those who got vaccinated, but instead to “vaccine influencers”. 

Anyone who got vaccinated would be able to nominate someone who encouraged them to get the jab, who would then get a 50-franc voucher from the government. 

Though the exact nature of these vouchers was not defined, “we can imagine they could be used in local businesses. But it will be up to cantons to set the details”, Berset said when making the announcement. 

The 50-franc bonus scheme was set to cost the country 150 million francs, although Berset said this was a drop in the ocean compared to the 50 million franc weekly cost of the country’s free testing scheme, which was scrapped on October 10th. 

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Covid boosters not available in Switzerland until autumn

The Swiss government will not make second Covid boosters available until autumn, saying those who are currently fully vaccinated face a low risk of contracting the virus.

Covid boosters not available in Switzerland until autumn

The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) announced on Tuesday that second Covid booster shots for general population will be available in the fall, “when the risk for individuals and the burden on the healthcare system will be greatest”.

While Switzerland had a widespread booster shot campaign against Covid, the government has been reluctant to approve second boosters other than for those in vulnerable categories. 

Right now, those with a weakened immune system and people over the age of 80 are the only ones eligible. 

People not in those risk groups who want a second booster will need to pay out of pocket for the jab. 

This may be people who feel they are in a risk group but are not included in the government’s list, or those who need a booster for travelling abroad. 

People who are travelling to countries where proof of up-to-date immunisation is required but whose Covid certificates are no longer valid, can receive the fourth dose but upon request have to pay for the shot.

Previously, all Covid boosters have been free for Swiss citizens and residents, with the government electing to cover the costs. 

How much will a Covid booster for travel cost? 

While the federal government previously covered the costs of the vaccines, it is now up to individual vaccination centres to set a price for a second booster. 

A spokesperson from the FOPH told The Local on Wednesday that the cost tends to be around CHF60 across much of the country. 

Please keep in mind that this cost only relates to second booster shots for those not in vulnerable categories. For those wanting their first booster – or indeed their first or second shot of the vaccine – the government will continue to cover the costs.