Doctors raise doubts about Swiss Covid-19 vaccination timetable

Since late December, 482,423 people have been vaccinated in Switzerland, or 5.6% of the population. Keystone / Anthony Anex

Senior cantonal doctors have expressed doubts about the federal government’s Covid-19 vaccination timetable. They say the goal of vaccinating anyone who wants to by early summer could be delayed to ‘late autumn’.

This content was published on February 13, 2021 - 13:44

Federal officials have reassured an impatient public that they are on track to vaccinate anyone who wants to (estimated 6 million people) by the end of June. Since late December, 482,423 people have been vaccinated, or 5.6% of the population.

Who gets a jab first?

The Swiss government has set an ambitious target: to inoculate six million people or 70% of the population - on a voluntary basis - by summer, or up to 70,000 vaccine shots per day.

The Swiss government wants all elderly residents of old people’s homes to get a jab by the end of January. Anyone over 75 and the most vulnerable should get a shot by the end of February, followed by 70% of over-65s by the end of March. The rest of the population should then follow.

Vaccines will be offered in hospitals, clinics, regional vaccination centres, by mobile teams and in doctor’s practices. Pharmacies have also offered their services.

End of insertion

Officials insist they can achieve their vaccination goal despite hold-ups with the delivery of vaccine doses. But some senior doctors have expressed concerns about the timetable.

The “ambitious plan” of vaccinating anyone who wants a shot “could actually be autumn… late autumn”, Rudolf Hauri, Zug’s cantonal doctor and president of the cantonal doctors association, told Swiss public radio, SRF, on Friday.

On Thursday, Graubünden’s cantonal doctor Marina Jamnicki gave a similar assessment.

Hauri said production hold-ups by vaccine manufacturers Biontech/Pfizer and Moderna and Swiss regulators’ slow approval of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine were to blame.

Last week, Health Minister Alain Berset was optimistic Switzerland could meet the “end of June” target.

“We can guarantee this goal - also because of the new supply contracts,” he told reporters.

Health regulator Swissmedic has given the green light to two Covid-19 vaccines: from Pfizer/BioNtech and Moderna, which are being used across the country. It has meanwhile withheld approval for AstraZeneca’s vaccine, demanding more efficacy and quality data. Approval of a Johnson & Johnson vaccine is also pending.

Production problems in Europe have resulted in delays in vaccine supplies to Switzerland. According to the German-language paper NZZamSonntagExternal link, only around 650,000 vaccinations will be possible in February compared to the original goal of 1.3 million. Vaccine delays cost the Swiss economy up to CHF100 million a day, according to the Swiss National Covid-19 Taskforce in a new study.

The authorities have reserved a total of 30 million vaccine doses from Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Curevac and Novavax. It has a population of 8.6 million.

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