The Swiss government is setting aside funds to procure enough doses of a Covid-19 vaccine for the country’s 8.6 million population.
“The goal is clear: The Swiss population should have the fastest possible access to a safe, effective vaccine,” asserted Health Minister Alain Berset in a press conference on Wednesday. He added that all countries should have fair access to a vaccine.
The government has tasked the defense ministry with negotiating contracts with manufacturers to secure a Covid-19 vaccine and estimates it will cost CHF300 million ($310.82 million) to procure enough doses for everyone in the country. This amount is most likely to be covered by existing funds for the coronavirus response.
The announcement comes amid fears that some countries may be left out when a vaccine is eventually approved and produced.
Immunity among the Swiss population, as is in the case in other countries, will be very low following the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic. "Consequently, worldwide demand for vaccines will be correspondingly high," the government noted in a statement.
Concerns are mounting that some countries including the US could seek to hoard a successful vaccine candidate given manufacturing capacity is unlikely to meet demand when a vaccine is first approved for use. Earlier this week, there were reports the US would receive first doses of a potential vaccine developed by US firm Moderna, even though the ingredients are manufactured by Swiss firm Lonza.
Berset indicated that the government is in touch with Lonza as well as other vaccine manufacturers but that there are more than 100 projects underway, including some in Switzerland, making it difficult to know which efforts will be successful in the end.
“It is not a question of money,” said Berset.
He noted no single country manufacturers a vaccine from start to finish but rather that parts are often produced in many different locations. Ultimately, countries are interested in a finished vaccine, not a preliminary product, which doesn’t make negotiations easy, according to the government statement.
Infectious disease head Daniel Koch told reporters that it is not the first time that Switzerland tries to secure or reserve a vaccine. “It is worldwide always the same principle. One negotiates with vaccine manufacturers whenever possible,” he said.
Koch added that through their contracts with countries, manufacturers ensure that it isn’t just one country that receives all of a vaccine and other countries receive nothing. He added that Switzerland also works with the World Health Organisation to ensure fair access.
“This worked well during vaccines for other pandemics and I’m confident that this will work well this time,” he told the press.
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