Can Swiss get a booster vaccination in Germany?

While Switzerland’s booster shot rollout is lagging, similar campaigns in Germany and Austria are in full swing. Can people who live or work in Switzerland get the jab abroad?

A sign on the border between Germany and Switzerland
A sign marks the border between Germany and Switzerland. Photo: DPA/Picture Alliance

On Monday, November 15th, Switzerland approved booster shots for people in risk groups, i.e. those over the age of 65 and people with pre-existing conditions. 

However, booster jabs for the general public have not yet been rolled out, with the government indicating on Monday that they will be approved at the end of November at the earliest. 

Neighbouring Germany and Austria are already administering booster shots to people aged 12 and over and 18 and over respectively. 

For Swiss who might not want to wait, is it possible for them to cross the border and get the jab? 

Can Swiss residents get a booster jab in Germany? 

Generally speaking, people living in Switzerland will not be able to get a vaccination in Germany unless they are a German citizen or work in Germany. 

Cross-border workers – i.e. people who work in Switzerland but live in Germany – may be able to get vaccinated in Germany in some situations, however this may be difficult if their healthcare is connected to their Swiss employer. 

Covid booster vaccinations in Switzerland: What you need to know

A mobile vaccination team told Switzerland’s Watson news outlet that it has knocked back enquiries from Swiss residents about getting booster jabs, saying they are reserved for Germans or people with German health insurance. 

Florian Mader, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health in the south-western German state of Baden-Württemberg, said that people from Switzerland would not necessarily be prevented from getting a vaccine as it was in everyone’s interest for more people to get the jab, but it would be a decision for the vaccine centre to make. 

“In view of the need to avert danger, we nevertheless appeal to those responsible on site to carry out a vaccination on a case-by-case basis in order to protect as many people as possible.”

Germany has also been struggling with a surge in demand at vaccination centres in recent days.

Over the weekend, vaccination centres in several states had queues of longer than three hours, while people were sent away without a jab in several states including Bavaria, Berlin and Brandenburg. 

Both southern states have recently made visiting bars and restaurants 2G – i.e. only for fully vaccinated people and those recovered from the virus – which has also contributed to the surge in demand. 

For Swiss who really want to get the jab in Germany however, it is not impossible. 

One journalist from Switzerland’s Tamedia group got vaccinated in Konstanz after registering by email despite not having a German health insurance card. 

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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?