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Do you need a booster shot for the Swiss Covid certificate?

Rules related to certificates, and Covid-19 in general, are changing quickly in Switzerland. This is what may lie ahead.

You may soon need a booster shot to access restaurants and other indoor venues in Switzerland. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
You may soon need a booster shot to access restaurants and other indoor venues in Switzerland. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Since December 20th, when the 2G rule was enforced in Switzerland, only those who are vaccinated or have recovered from coronavirus within the last four months can access indoor public venues upon showing their Covid certificates.

READ MORE: 2G: Switzerland targets unvaccinated with new Covid measures

This includes people who have had their two shots of the vaccine but not yet the third one. However, this may change soon, as legislators are calling on the Federal Council to make the certificate valid only after a booster dose.

They argue that the current Covid certificate, valid 365 days after the second shot, no longer reflects latest warnings from health experts that Omicron variant may diminish vaccination protection, especially among the elderly and vulnerable group.

“Current data shows that Covid-19 vaccination provides only reduced protection against the Omicron variant. Protection can be increased with a booster”, the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) announced on Tuesday.

Until now, boosters were recommended six months after initial immunisation. But new data “increasingly indicates that protection against infection and disease is significantly lower and declines more rapidly with the Omicron variant than with the Delta variant. Data also shows that a booster vaccination can greatly improve protection against infection by Omicron”, FOPH said.

Switzerland’s Covid-19 Task Force also confirmed the diminishing protection of the vaccination, saying a  third dose increases protection against Delta back to at least 95 percent, and against Omicron to around 60 to 85 percent, at least for a short time.

As a result of these findings, FOPH now recommends a booster dose four months after the second shot, instead of six months recommended previously.

Given the new data, “the Covid certificate is outdated,” said Peter Metzinger, a municipal councilor of Dietikon, Zurich.  

“If the vaccination protection and the virus change, the certificate must also be adapted. It must be updated as soon as possible and have the booster as the new vaccination standard”, he added.

MP Mustafa Atici also supports the idea of ​​making the Covid certificate conditional on the third dose. “According to scientists, the triple vaccination offers the best protection. The booster must quickly become a new benchmark for the certificate”, he said.

A similar measure is already in effect in France. From mid-January, the country’s health pass will be deactivated seven months after the administration of the 2nd dose for all those who have not received a booster in the meantime. The measure is already in effect for people 65 and over, who had access to the third shot earlier.

The government has not yet said whether a booster will be required to get a certificate in Switzerland, but the announcement is expected before the end of the year.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What is Switzerland’s 2G-Plus rule?

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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.