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COVID-19 VACCINES

EXPLAINED: How to get the flu vaccine in Switzerland

With winter well and truly coming, risk of catching the flu is on the rise. Here’s how to get this season’s vaccination.

A cup of tea, tissues and Elvis Costello glasses sit next to a bed against a black wall.
Although the focus has been on Covid, the flu is also dangerous. Here's how to get your jab. Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Switzerland saw a significant decrease in influenza cases in the winter of 2020 as the impact of Covid measures such as social distancing and masking – as well as increased hygiene and working from home – had their impact. 

The relaxation of Switzerland’s Covid measures alongside the vaccination campaign has led to a resurgence in concerns about the flu. 

EXPLAINED: How to get vaccinated against Covid in your Swiss canton

The Swiss Federal Office of Public Health has warned that flu infection rates will rise back to their pre-pandemic levels this year. 

Flu shots have been available in Switzerland since October 13th and will be administered until the end of winter. 

Friday, November 5th is National Flu Vaccination Day in Switzerland, an event launched by the College of Family Medicine (KHM). 

On this day, flu vaccinations can be done without appointment at participating doctors and participating pharmacies. 

The jab will cost CHF30. On days other than November 5th, the flu vaccine can be up to 50CHF depending on the location. 

More information about the flu jab can be found here. 

Who is recommended for the flu vaccination in Switzerland? 

The risk groups for the flu in Switzerland are roughly similar to those we have heard about regularly over the past 18 months in relation to Covid-19, with a few variations. 

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about Switzerland’s flu vaccine

Those aged over 65 are recommended to get the jab, as are people with chronic diseases. 

Anyone working in the care sector or who has regular contact with people in risk groups (including babies) is also in the recommended group. 

UPDATED: How can I get my Covid booster shot in Switzerland?

Unlike the Covid jab however, premature babies (from six months old for their first two winters) and pregnant mothers are also in the recommended group. 

More information about risk groups can be found here. 

Can I get the flu vaccination at the same time as that for Covid? 

Doctors have encouraged people to get vaccinated for both Covid and the flu, saying that the vaccinations are safe. 

Switzerland’s College of Family Medicine (KHM) said the vaccinations can be taken at the same time or around the same time. 

https://www.badenertagblatt.ch/aargau/auf-den-winter-zu-am-5-november-ist-nationaler-grippe-impftag-ld.2209038

While it is possible to catch Covid and the flu at the same time, this is relatively rare. While studies are still ongoing, the New York Times reports that around three percent of those tested in New York had both at the same time. 

The risk however appears to be greater in children and young people. 

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For members

COVID-19 VACCINES

Reader question: When will Switzerland authorise second Covid booster shots?

Even as other countries have started to administer fourth doses of a Covid-19 vaccine and the infections are on the rise again, Swiss health authorities still haven’t rolled out second boosters. This is why, and what lies ahead.

Reader question: When will Switzerland authorise second Covid booster shots?

As The Local reported on Tuesday, coronavirus is circulating again in Switzerland and rates of contamination are expected to soar in the coming weeks.

In fact, over a million people in Switzerland could catch the virus this summer.

 “More than 80,000 new contaminations per week” are expected in the next two months, according to Tanja Stadler, the former head of the Covid-19 Task Force — much more than during the past two summers, when the rate of infections slowed down.

READ MORE: ‘Over a million people’ in Switzerland could be infected with Covid this summer

Data from the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) indicates that the upward trend is already underway. The number of new reported cases has been soaring in the past few weeks — from below 10,000 a week in mid-April and beginning of May, to 24,704 new cases in the past seven days.

These are officially registered contaminations, but as “most of infected people will not be tested, the number of confirmed cases will be smaller on paper than in reality”, Stadler pointed out.

Although nearly all cases in Switzerland (99 percent) are caused by Omicron and its sub-variants, which are more contagious but less severe that the original Covid viruses, “more vulnerable people are likely to end up in hospital, and long Covid cases are also likely to rise”, she said.

What is FOPH’s official stance on second boosters?

Health authorities are currently recommending them only for people in high-risk categories — that is, those with a very weak immune system.

“There is no need for the general public to receive an additional booster vaccination in the current situation. According to available data, people who are fully vaccinated or vaccinated and cured are still well protected against severe forms of COVID-19”, FOPH said on May 23rd.

There has been no change in strategy since then, despite the increasing infection rates.

However, authorities relented on one point: they now allow fourth doses to be administered to people whose Covid certificates have expired but who plan to travel to countries where up-to-date immunisations are required.

FOPH said these travellers can get “off-label” shots — meaning being vaccinated before the official authorisation to do so is issued — but these doses will not be free of charge.

“The price will be set by the cantons and the vaccination centres”, FOPH said, adding, however, that “second boosters for people with weakened immune systems will remain free”.

Why are Swiss health authorities dragging their feet in authorising second boosters?

As with the original vaccine rollout at the beginning of 2021, which took longer here than elsewhere, Swiss slowness may be due to the abundance of caution. For instance, drugs regulator Swissmedic “took longer than many countries to approve new vaccines”.

This time around, FOPH is taking its time to examine benefits of second boosters for general population (as opposed to at-risk groups).

Part of it may be the uncertainty prevailing over the efficacy of vaccines, which were conceived to combat the original early strains like Delta, not the variants, and sub-variants, that emerged later.

“The current vaccine does not provide clear protection against the Omicron”, according to Giuseppe Pantaleo, head of the immunology unit at Vaud university hospital (CHUV).

So when will Switzerland authorise second boosters?

Health officials said they will issue official recommendations “before the summer holidays”, which means shortly.

Two scenarios are currently  foreseen by FOPH: “It may be that an additional booster vaccination is recommended only for people over 65 and those suffering from certain chronic diseases, but it is also possible that it will be intended for the entire population”.

READ MORE: UPDATE: When will Switzerland roll out second Covid boosters?

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