Omicron: Switzerland shortens wait for booster vaccines to four months

Booster vaccinations are now recommended four rather than six months after your previous dose due to the threat posed by the Omicron variant.

Swiss Interior and Health Minister Alain Berset gestures during a press conference. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)
Swiss Interior and Health Minister Alain Berset gestures during a press conference. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

Switzerland’s Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) and vaccination commission (EKIF) on Tuesday shortened the recommended waiting time for a booster vaccination from six to four months. 

The reason for the shortening of the recommended period is evidence that the protection offered by existing vaccination against Omicron variant is limited.

Omicron, which on Tuesday became the dominant strain in the United States, is also growing in prevalence in Switzerland. 

The FOPH and EKIF said that evidence suggests booster vaccinations provide significant protection against the variant, particularly for older people and people in risk categories. 

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

People who have received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine more than four months ago are also recommended to have a booster dose with an mRNA vaccine under the new recommendations. 

The federal government confirmed on Tuesday that there is enough vaccine to vaccinate everyone who wants a shot. 

Boosters ‘greatly improve protection’

The Federal Office of Public Health said early data on the new and heavily mutated Omicron variant indicated that it was better than previous coronavirus strains at dodging vaccine protections, but that a booster shot could “greatly improve protection”.

As a result, it said, “a booster vaccination with an mRNA vaccine is now recommended for everyone aged 16 years and older as early as four months … after initial immunisation, especially for older people.”

Until now, the country’s health authorities had recommended boosters six months after people vaccinated with either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, which use mRNA technology, received their second shot.

And “given expectations that the Omicron variant will spread rapidly, a booster vaccination is also recommended for seriously immune deficient people after three doses of mRNA vaccine for initial immunisation,” it said.

READ MORE: Switzerland announces new Covid measures to apply from Monday

Swiss health authorities also recommended that people who had received the one-dose Johnson&Johnson vaccine receive a booster dose of a mRNA jab after four months.

They said that even after shortening the interval before administering boosters, Switzerland had enough vaccine doses to provide jabs for everyone who wants them.

Switzerland introduced a string of new restrictions this week in the face of surging infection numbers, including requiring people to work from home and barring the unvaccinated from restaurants, museums and other venues.

The wealthy, Alpine nation of around 8.6 million people has to date registered more than 11,600 Covid deaths since the start of the pandemic. Nearly 67 percent of the population is fully vaccinated — a relatively low number compared to other countries in western Europe.

How will this work in practice? 

Ultimately, the cantons are responsible for carrying out vaccinations, including booster vaccinations, and will set the relevant time frame. 

Over the weekend, Zurich indicated it would slightly shorten its recommended period for vaccinations from six months to five and a half months, although the canton indicated that further shortenings may take place if the FOPH recommended this. 

READ MORE: Zurich shortens wait for Covid booster vaccines

All Swiss cantons are currently carrying out booster vaccinations, although some readers have indicated they are still waiting for a jab. 

Member comments

  1. Where is the data supporting this decision, i.e., data showing that 4 months between the shots reduces the risk of severe infection compared to 6 months in all age groups? Plots on antibody levels do not count, since the immunsystem is more complex than that. I am talking about real infections.

  2. He is so full of it. Is he even aware how poorly things are organised at cantonal level? I am 8 months post my original vaccination. I registered for a booster the moment they announced that under 65 were eligible. They gave me appointment on January 8 without possibility to bring it forward. This is the reality of the Swiss vaccination campaign.

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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?