UPDATE: When will Switzerland roll out second Covid boosters?

Second boosters are only recommended for people in high-risk categories in Switzerland. When will this change?

Several vials of Covid vaccine with purple lids
When is Switzerland set for a second booster? Photo: ARIANA DREHSLER / AFP

Unlike other countries such as Israel, Germany and the United States, Switzerland has still not recommended a fourth booster jab. 

Vaccination rates are currently low in Switzerland, with only around 1,000 jabs taking place per week. 

Around 70 percent of the population is currently vaccinated against Covid. 

On May 23rd, the government issued new guidelines regarding second booster doses.

These shots are recommended for people “with a very weakened immune system”, FOPH said on Monday, May 23rd.

“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”.

What about boosters for travel?

Although boosters a no longer needed in Switzerland, they may be required for trips abroad to some countries. 

For those who need boosters for trips abroad, the government is “evaluating the possibilities” to administer the shots.

This is all the more important as some countries still require proof of vaccination to enter and millions of Swiss certificates will expire by autumn at the latest.

Expanded guidelines for fourth doses for the fall will be issued within the next few weeks, FOPH said, adding that Switzerland has a sufficient number of vaccine doses.

READ MORE: What will Switzerland do about the ‘millions’ of expiring Covid certificates?

Why a booster recommendation remains ‘out of the question’

Christoph Berger, who heads up Switzerland’s Federal Vaccination Commission, reinforced that Switzerland’s main metric was hospitalisations, which were only increasing slightly. 

“A nationwide recommendation for another vaccination is therefore currently out of the question” Berger said in March 2022. 

EXPLAINED: What are Switzerland’s current Covid measures?

Berger also predicted “the extremely high number of infections… should not increase any further”. 

Berger said approximately 90 percent of the adult population has some form of immunity to the virus, whether from vaccination, a previous infection or a combination of both. 

Berger however noted that another jab may be necessary at the end of summer. 

“In addition, it is still uncertain whether at the end of summer a booster vaccination will be needed for certain people or for everyone.”

The FOPH said in February it did not want to presume the existing vaccination protection would last after the summer.

However, unlike the current booster campaign, the shots may be recommended not for the entire population but those in particular risk groups.

The Federal Vaccination Commission said those above the age of 65 and who have pre-existing conditions or other illnesses may be recommended a fourth jab.

The FOPH did however not rule out another shot for the entire population, although they consider this to be the “worst case” scenario.

Being fully vaccinated significantly reduces the chance of spreading the virus, but does not eliminate it completely. 

Studies show that unvaccinated people are three times more contagious than those who are boosted or who have recently contracted and recovered from the virus. 

Higher spread can also be problematic due to the increased threat of mutation. 

The period of time in which vaccinated people are contagious is also shorter. 

READ MORE: Unvaccinated ‘three times more contagious’ than vaccinated in Switzerland

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OUTLOOK: Could Switzerland introduce Covid rules this autumn?

After several months of a relatively low number of coronavirus cases in Switzerland, the rate of infections rose by over 22 percent in a span of seven days this week. What measures are Swiss health officials planning to prevent a new wave?

OUTLOOK: Could Switzerland introduce Covid rules this autumn?

The Swiss government has said that “further waves of infections are to be expected in the fall/winter of 2022/2023″.

As in previous waves, “the main objective of managing the pandemic is to prevent an overload of the health system. It is currently difficult to predict the magnitude of the waves of infection and, therefore, the burden on the healthcare system”, it added.

According to current estimates, “it can be assumed that ordinary structures will be sufficient to manage the situation”.

However, unless new, deadly variants emerge in the near future, health officials  expect the new wave to be milder than the ones  that struck in the winter of 2020 and 2021.

There are several reasons for this optimism:

Higher immunity

Due to vaccinations and infections, “it is estimated that 97 percent of the Swiss population has been in contact with the virus”, which means that “immunity within the population is currently high”, authorities said.

Lighter course

This means that unlike the early Covid strains like Alpha and Delta, which were highly virulent, the latest dominant mutation — Omicron and its subvariants — while highly contagious, are also less dangerous for most people.

New vaccines

The new version of the Moderna vaccine, which should better target certain sub-variants of Omicron, will be rolled in Switzerland from October 10th.

Compared to the original vaccine, which was effective mostly against early strains and offered no protection against Omicron, “the new vaccine produces a stronger immune response against the Omicron variants BA.1 and BA.4/5″, according to the drug regulatory body, Swissmedic.

READ MORE: BREAKING: Switzerland approves new Covid-19 boosters

Is the government planning any specific measures this winter?

While the severity of the new wave is not yet known, authorities have made several ‘just-in-case’ provisions by, for instance, extending the Covid-19 law until June 2024.

This legislation, which was approved in a referendum in November 2021, allows the Federal Council to maintain and apply emergency measures that are necessary to manage the pandemic. Without the extension, ithe law would lapse in December of this year.

READ MORE: Covid-19 law: How Switzerland reacted to the referendum results

“No one wants to reactivate the Covid law. But after two years of the pandemic, we have understood that we must be ready”, said MP Mattea Meyer.

While no mask mandates or other restrictions are being discussed at this time, the re-activated legislation would allow the authorities to quickly introduce any measures they deem necessary, according to the evolution of the epidemiological situation.

More preparations from the cantons

As it would be up to the cantons to apply measures set by the federal government, some have asked that financing be made available in case regional hospitals have to again accommodate patients from other cantons.

They are also making sure enough intensive care beds are ready for Covid patients.

What about the Covid certificate and tracing?

Though it is no longer used in Switzerland, the certificate continues to be required abroad.

The government will ensure its international compatibility.

The legal basis for the SwissCovid tracking app will also remain in force and can be reactivated during the winter of 2023/2024, if necessary.

MPs are also debating possible rules to be enforced for cross-border workers in the event of border closures.