Coronavirus: Federal Council plans new vaccination drive

Bern, 01.10.2021 - The Federal Council plans to step up the vaccination campaign once again in a joint effort with the cantons to bring a swift end to the COVID-19 epidemic situation in Switzerland. Over the coming weeks, the campaign aims to reach out to as many people as possible who are still undecided and need more information about vaccination. At its meeting on 1 October, the Federal Council therefore opened a consultation on proposals for a new vaccination drive. These include a national vaccination week, around 170 additional mobile vaccination centres and personalised advisory services. There are also plans to offer vouchers for individuals who successfully encourage others to get vaccinated. Furthermore, the Federal Council has decided that testing for COVID certificate purposes will continue to be free of charge for the under-16s and for people who have received their first vaccine dose.

While the number of new COVID-19 infections is decreasing, the situation with ICU beds remains tense. Given the large proportion of people still not immunised and the highly contagious Delta variant at large, there remains a considerable risk of another wave of infection overwhelming hospitals in the colder autumn and winter months.

Switzerland lagging behind in vaccination rates

Around 57% of the total population in Switzerland is now fully vaccinated. This places Switzerland among the lowest vaccination rates in Europe. A moderate increase in vaccine uptake was observed in recent weeks after the requirement for a COVID certificate was extended, but the pace of vaccination has already slowed down again since then.

Vaccination is the key to ending the pandemic: it is safe and provides good protection against catching COVID-19. Also, anyone who does get infected despite being vaccinated is far less likely to fall seriously ill. However, it will take a much higher vaccination rate for the population as a whole to be immunised and protected against serious illness. Based on current knowledge, it is likely that the vaccination rate for the over-65s would have to be between 90 and 95% before measures could be lifted. At present, only 88.5% of this age group have received at least one vaccine. For those aged between 18 and 65, a vaccination rate of around 80% would likely be needed. Currently the rate for this age group is around 71%.

Federal government to plan vaccination drive 

While demand was high in the initial phase of the vaccine campaign, more people at this stage are looking for further information before getting vaccinated. A joint vaccination drive by the federal government and the cantons aims to make it easier for people to access the vaccine and boost Switzerland’s overall rate. The campaign will focus on people who are still hesitant and need more information about the vaccine. The individual’s right to decide against vaccination will of course be respected.

There are four elements to the proposed vaccination campaign: a national vaccination week, additional mobile vaccination centres, personalised information sessions, and vouchers for encouraging others to get vaccinated.

National vaccination week

A national vaccination week to be organised by the federal government and the cantons aims to highlight the major benefits of vaccination for society as a whole. The goal is to reassure more people on the subject of vaccination by communicating reliable facts in a clear and straightforward manner, with information on effectiveness, safety, side effects, health risks of an infection and vaccination options. There are plans for information events by the cantons, communes and different organisations (e.g. churches, sports clubs) as well as a vaccination hotline.

170 additional mobile vaccination centres

Vaccination buses are to bring vaccines directly to where people gather: village squares, workplaces, football pitches, university campuses, shopping centres and outside nightclubs. The aim is to meet and inform people individually and provide easy access to vaccines. In addition to the around 50 vaccination buses already in operation, there will be another 170 buses and other mobile units on Switzerland’s roads over a number of weeks.

Direct contact with as many people as possible

Many people are still looking for more answers before deciding to get vaccinated. The aim is to make around 1,700 special advisers available throughout Switzerland to talk individually with people who are hesitant about getting vaccinated, supplementing the advice already available from health professionals. This advisory service will be offered over a period of several weeks and may be accessed by phone, on social media channels or in person.

CHF 50 voucher for successfully encouraging others to get vaccinated

The federal government and the cantons want to get the entire population directly involved in the vaccine campaign, calling on people to tell their friends, neighbours, colleagues and family about the benefits of getting vaccinated. Their participation is to be rewarded, with each newly vaccinated person able to name one person who encouraged them to get vaccinated. That person would then receive a CHF 50 voucher in the post from the canton as a reward. Each canton would decide for itself where the vouchers could be spent, for example at the cinema or in a restaurant.

Investment of up to CHF 150 million

The vaccine promotion campaign will cost a maximum of CHF 150 million. The Federal Council sees this as a worthwhile investment compared to current testing costs of around CHF 50 million a week. The public health and economic benefits of a high vaccination rate are undisputed: on average, one hospital admission can be prevented for every 100 vaccinations and one ICU admission prevented for every 250 vaccinations. A higher vaccination rate also brings other cost savings, as it means more of the restrictions in place can be relaxed or removed altogether. This will benefit in particular those sectors currently most affected, such as catering and hospitality, fitness centres and leisure activities. The consultation will run until 6 October, and the Federal Council will announce its decision on 13 October.

Focus to be on measures likely to end the pandemic 

Following consultations with the cantons, the social partners and other stakeholders, the Federal Council today also decided not to continue assuming test costs for COVID certificates beyond 10 October. Instead, it intends to focus federal financial efforts on measures which are more likely to bring an end to the pandemic. It also believes that the very high costs of such testing should no longer be borne by the general public. The majority of the cantons expressed support for this position in the consultation. The Federal Council has therefore decided to reject the demands of the two parliamentary commissions calling for an extension.

Free testing for people with one vaccine dose and for the under-16s

For certain groups, however, the Federal Council will continue to offer free testing for COVID certificate purposes. For those who have received their first vaccine dose but do not yet have a COVID certificate, the federal government will cover the costs of testing (rapid antigen tests and pooled PCR saliva tests) until 30 November. Also, testing for COVID certificate purposes will remain free of charge for everyone under 16.

Federal government to cover costs for issuing certificates with repeat testing

As an incentive for repeat testing, the federal government will now cover the costs of issuing certificates with repeat testing. Some testing facilities currently do not issue certificates because the costs would have to be paid by the client, such as the canton or the company. This adjustment by the Federal Council has been made in response to a request from Parliament. A transition period will be in place until all laboratories and cantons have converted their processes.  

National application office for COVID certificates

Anyone who has been vaccinated with a vaccine approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and requires a certificate for Switzerland can apply for a Swiss COVID certificate. To simplify the process and ease the burden on the cantons, the federal government is setting up a central electronic application office for COVID certificates. This decision, taken today by the Federal Council following consultation, means that the cantons will not have to set up their own platforms.

The application office will be up and running from 11 October. The transition period for accepting other vaccination certificates, which was to end by 10 October, will be extended to 24 October.


Address for enquiries

Federal Office of Public Health
Coronavirus Infoline +41 58 463 00 00
COVID-19 Vaccination Infoline +41 58 377 88 92


Publisher

The Federal Council
https://www.admin.ch/gov/en/start.html

Federal Department of Home Affairs
http://www.edi.admin.ch

Federal Office of Public Health
http://www.bag.admin.ch

https://www.bag.admin.ch/content/bag/en/home/das-bag/aktuell/medienmitteilungen.msg-id-85336.html