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COVID-19 VACCINES

Everything you need to know about Covid vaccines for children in Switzerland

Switzerland has approved Covid vaccinations for children aged five to 11. Here’s what you need to know.

A child waits to be vaccinated against Covid-19
Switzerland will start vaccinating children against Covid-19 from January onwards. Photo: Andrej Ivanov / AFP

Late on Friday, December 10th, Swiss medicines agency Swissmedic approved Covid vaccinations for children aged between 5 and 11. 

Previously, vaccination was only available for children aged 12 and up. 

Which vaccine will be administered? 

In December 2021, the Pfizer/Biontech vaccine was approved for children. In May 2022, Switzerland approved the Moderna vaccine

This means two vaccines are now approved for children in Switzerland, both of which are mRNA vaccines. 

Two further vaccines – Johnson and Johnson and the Novavax jab – have been approved. 

When will vaccinations start? 

Vaccinations for children started in January 2022. 

As with previous rollouts of the vaccine, parents will presumably be able to register their children to get vaccinated in the weeks before the shots are administered.  

READ MORE: How can I get my children vaccinated against Covid in Switzerland?

As with all other Covid vaccinations, the rules are developed at a cantonal level, therefore the exact starting date will be different across the country. 

Lukas Engelberger, President of the Conference of Health Directors (GDK), confirmed on Monday that children could be vaccinated at vaccination centres as well as by doctors. 

How many children are now eligible? 

There are an estimated 600,000 children who will now be eligible for the vaccine, which is slightly lower than seven percent of the population. 

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.

Vaccination children would also help to preventing continued outbreaks in the country’s schools. 

Currently, 66.3 percent of the total population of Switzerland is fully vaccinated. 

COMPARED: How Covid vaccination rules for children differ around Europe

Is the vaccine safe for children? 

“Clinical trial results show that the vaccine is safe and effective in this age group,” it said in a statement.

The Comirnaty vaccine is administered in two doses of ten microgrammes three weeks apart.

An ongoing clinical trial of more than 1,500 people “shows that the Covid-19 vaccine offers almost complete protection against serious illness caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus in 5 to 11-year-olds”, it said.

“Side effects tended to occur less frequently than in adolescents or adults. They included pain at the injection site and tiredness, or less frequently headache, aching limbs or fever,” the agency added.

In the United States, around 2.5 million children have been vaccinated. So far, there have been no evidence of serious side effects.

What kind of side effects should parents expect? 

The side effects experienced by children are relatively mild in comparison to those commonly experienced by adults. 

According to Swissmedic, they most often include pain at the injection site, along with headaches and joint pain in rare examples. 

Do children get the same vaccine as adults? 

In a press conference on December 13th, Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset said children do not receive the exact same vaccination and dosage as adults.

“It is a vaccination that is specially produced for children to protect them from severe courses and long covid.”

Children receive a lower dose of the vaccine than adults.

The amount of this dose is not expressly specified and will be a decision made by the doctor on the basis of the child’s age and weight. 

Have any children been vaccinated in Switzerland yet? 

In Switzerland, children under 12 are given Covid vaccines only in special, paediatrician-approved cases involving compromised immunity or other serious health problems.

In total, 150 youngsters who met this criteria have been inoculated to date across Switzerland. 

Philippe Luchsinger, President of General Practitioners in Switzerland, said this takes place on an individual basis with regard to certain conditions

“There are individual inquiries from parents that are checked individually by paediatricians, especially in the case of children with high-risk diseases.

As The Local revealed in November, some parents in Switzerland had been taking their children to Austria and Germany to get Covid shots. 

Rudolf Hauri, President of the Swiss Association of Cantonal Doctors, said that doctors are more reluctant to vaccinate in opposition to official advice so in Switzerland. 

“There is great reluctance to take off-label vaccinations because without any data, you run a certain risk.”

Where children are vaccinated without official approval, parents are warned that they make the decision at their own risk. 

READ MORE: Swiss parents take children to Austria and Germany for Covid shots

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For members

COVID-19 VACCINES

Switzerland authorises Moderna vaccine for children over six

Children between the ages of six and 11 will now be able to get a Moderna shot, Swiss health authority said.

Switzerland authorises Moderna vaccine for children over six

Until now only the Pfizer vaccine has been approved in Switzerland for this group, starting at age five.

However, on Friday the country’s drug regulatory body, Swissmedic, gave the green light to start administering Moderna’s vaccine to children over six, who will receive two half doses of 50 micrograms at an interval of four weeks.

Those over 12 and adults are injected the full dose.

The agency said that based on clinical studies, young kids react to the Moderna vaccine much like older children and adults do.

“The most commonly reported side effects such as pain, redness or swelling at the injection site, fatigue, headache, shivering or nausea, were similar to those in adolescents and young adults”. Swissmedic said.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about Covid vaccines for children in Switzerland

Also, “fever occurred more frequently in children, whereas muscle and joint pains were seen less often than in adolescents or adults. The undesirable effects were generally mild to moderate and lasted for a few days”.

While some parents may be reluctant to vaccinate their children against the coronavirus, health officials say the vaccines are safe. They also argue that in order to achieve herd immunity, all age groups should have their shots.

While the number of Covid infections has dropped significantly in Switzerland in the past two months, epidemiologists are predicting a new outbreak in the fall and winter, when cooler weather drives more people indoors, where the yet-unknown variants will be more transmissible.

READ MORE: How can I get my children vaccinated against Covid in Switzerland?

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