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Berset warns of low vaccination appetite in nursing homes

Some 80% of over 80-year-olds in Switzerland are vaccinated against Covid-19. Keystone / Martial Trezzini

Switzerland’s health minster told the Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper he would prefer to see more over-80-year-olds and more healthcare workers getting vaccinated.

This content was published on July 3, 2021 - 17:12
Keystone-SDA/NZZ/dos

While he told the newspaper he was more or less happy with the “positively developing” Covid vaccination campaign, Berset said the tapering off among over 80-year-olds was a concern.

“Currently, 20% of those over 80 are not vaccinated,” he said, comparing the Swiss figure to England and Spain, where some 98% of this age group has received the jab. “Also in other risk groups, too many people don’t want to get vaccinated,” Berset said.

However, the minister said he was more worried about workers in retirement homes and mobile care units – a “considerable amount” of whom don’t want to get vaccinated. Berset didn’t mention concrete numbers.

“This puts older people at risk, including those who are vaccinated, since the protection isn’t 100%. This shouldn’t be allowed,” Berset said.

However, he stuck to the government’s position of “incentivising” rather than “obliging” vaccination in the country, including when it comes to such groups. But he added that “if they don’t want to get vaccinated, they should at least have to take a test once per week, to protect the older people. Anything else would be irresponsible”.

Berset said the government would discuss the issue with the directors of nursing homes, where it was vital to avoid any infection flare-ups in the future.

In a wide-ranging interview with the NZZ, he also talked about his own attitude to vaccination – a “rational” question of “risk analysis” – his experience as health minister over the past 16 months of pandemic, and the prospects for the next months.

Ultimately, Berset says, at the point when “all those who want to be vaccinated are vaccinated, wide-ranging measures will be in [his] view difficult to justify”. As long as a new variant doesn’t arrive that is not protected by current vaccination, then large closures are not foreseen.

Switzerland announced the latest series of coronavirus easings a fortnight ago: mask-wearing is no longer required in outdoor areas, travel rules have been eased (in tandem with other European countries), and mass events with over 10,000 participants are again possible.

As of July 2, over half of the Swiss population had received at least one Covid-19 vaccination jab; 36% were fully vaccinated.

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