Coronavirus: Vaccination

The vaccination roll out began on 4 January. People at especially high risk are being vaccinated first.

COVID-19 vaccination infoline

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Exceptions for people who are vaccinated

If you are fully vaccinated with an authorised mRNA vaccine you are exempt from some measures. Fully vaccinated means:

  1. You have received two doses of vaccine and 14 days have elapsed since the second vaccination.
  2. You have already had a confirmed COVID-19 infection (PCR or antigen test) and have received a dose of vaccine after that. Fourteen days have elapsed since the vaccination.

The following exceptions apply to fully vaccinated people:

  • Exemption from contact quarantine requirement: You can be exempted from quarantine by the cantonal office responsible after close contact with someone who has tested positive. Since there is not yet any long-term scientific data on how long the vaccines provide protection, this initially applies for 6 months after a COVID-19 vaccination.
  • Relaxed measures for private gatherings: You do not have to social distance or wear a mask at private gatherings with other fully vaccinated people.

These exceptions are possible because the current data shows that the transmission of the coronavirus to other people is low after full vaccination. However, the vaccination does not provide 100% protection from infection. It is therefore important that you continue to observe the hygiene and social distancing rules to contain the spread of the coronavirus. All rules and bans, for example the mask-wearing requirements and the limits on the number of people at private gatherings, continue to apply, also to vaccinated people. It’s also important to get tested if you have symptoms. You’ll find more information on the Tests page.

Registering for the vaccination

You will find information on how vaccinations are organised in your canton and where you can register on the website of your canton. You’ll find a list of cantonal websites on foph-coronavirus.ch

Aims of COVID-19 programme

Although the majority of infected people develop only mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, in some people who contract the disease it leads to severe symptoms, particularly in those who are at especially high risk.
Approximately 15% of hospitalised patients require treatment in intensive care units, and around 1% of known COVID-19 cases in the population die.

The aims of vaccinating against COVID-19 are therefore to:

  1. Reduce the number of severe cases of the disease and the number of deaths
  2. Ensure that the provision of healthcare can be maintained.
  3. Reduce the negative health, psychological, social and economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Who should get themselves vaccinated?

Under the COVID-19 vaccination strategy, priority for vaccination is to be given to the following target groups:

Target group 1: People at especially high risk

Further prioritisation is necessary within the group of especially vulnerable people. This is because in the initial phase not enough doses of vaccine are available for all those at especially high risk.

The following people are being given access to vaccinations first:

  • People age 75 and over
  • People with highest-risk chronic diseases, regardless of their age
  • People who live in a retirement or care home. Staff who are in contact with residents of retirement and care homes also have the option of being vaccinated at the same time.

After that come:

  • People aged between 65 and 74
  • People under 65 with chronic diseases who have not yet been vaccinated

Do you have a chronic illness but don’t know whether it’s one of the highest-risk chronic illnesses? Below you’ll find a list of the highest-risk chronic conditions. If you have an illness that is on the list you can register for priority vaccination.

Following people at especially high risk (vulnerable people), the vaccination will also be offered to the following target groups in the corresponding order.

  • Target group 2: Healthcare professionals with patient contact/carers for people at especially high risk
  • Target group 3: Close contacts (household members or relatives providing care) of people at especially high risk
  • Target group 4: People in communal facilities with an increased risk of infection and outbreaks (for example homes for the handicapped).

It has become apparent that these priorities are being put into practice differently from canton to canton. In particular there are differences in the vaccination of healthcare professionals. For this reason the Federal Vaccination Commission (EKIF/CFV) and the FOPH have drawn up guidelines specifying which groups of healthcare professionals are to be vaccinated at the same time as especially vulnerable people (target group 1). Given that volumes of vaccine are currently limited, the goal is to assure the provision of healthcare in areas that are particularly affected while making sufficient vaccine available for especially vulnerable people at the highest risk.

If sufficient amounts of vaccine are available, adults who do not fall in target groups 1 to 4 as described above can also be vaccinated. These people can then be vaccinated at the same time as group 3, in order of descending age. This is possible because most vulnerable people have already been vaccinated and are therefore very well protected from getting the disease. Also, the risk of a severe case if infected with the new coronavirus increases with age.

Group 4 should continue to be offered the vaccination separately at each establishment, for example by means of mobile teams.

Vaccinations are voluntary in Switzerland. There are no plans for compulsory COVID-19 vaccination. You can decide for yourself whether or not you want to be vaccinated.

Vaccination of pregnant women

At present the vaccination is not recommended across the board for pregnant women. However, in the case of certain forms of chronic illnesses (PDF, 174 kB, 10.05.2021) with a risk of severe Covid-19 disease or people who are at an increased risk of infection (for example healthcare personnel), a vaccination might be advisable. Talk to your doctor if you’re pregnant.

Vaccination of children

Currently there are no plans to vaccinate children. Study data for the relevant age groups is not yet available.

Vaccination recommendations

The vaccination strategy provides the basis for the vaccine recommendations. In Switzerland, the vaccination recommendations are drawn up by the Federal Commission for Vaccination FCV (in German, French or Italian) in cooperation with the FOPH. As soon as Swissmedic grants approval for a vaccine, the FCV works out the vaccination recommendations on the basis of the clinical phase III findings. The vaccination recommendations may differ for individual vaccines, since each vaccine has different properties which may have different effects depending on the target group (e.g. people at especially high risk, older people).

The latest scientific findings and the current epidemiological situation are also taken into account in the vaccination recommendations.

Once vaccination recommendations are available for a vaccine, vaccination begins.

The combined vaccination recommendation for the Comirnaty® vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech and COVID-19 Vaccine Moderna® from Moderna has been in place since 12 January 2021. Among other things the recommendation includes:

  • Properties of the vaccines
  • Directions for administering the vaccination
  • Specific vaccination goals and analysis of the benefits and risks for each target group
  • Priorities as to which target groups are to receive a vaccination if supplies of vaccine are limited

You will find information on the order of priority in the Who should get themselves vaccinated? section.

Vaccination documentation

Every COVID-19 vaccination is documented. Below you’ll find information on the various possibilities for documenting the vaccination.

Proof of vaccination/vaccination record

At most vaccination locations, you will receive printed proof of vaccination from the healthcare professional after you have been vaccinated. This proof of vaccination lists the date and location of the vaccination, as well as information on the vaccine administered (trade name, manufacturer and batch number). At some vaccination locations, you can get the COVID-19 vaccinations entered directly in your vaccination record.

The proof of vaccination is a medical certificate and not an official document.

COVID certificate

A project is currently under way looking at implementation of a standardised, forgery-proof and internationally-recognised COVID certificate. The project aims to allow people who have been vaccinated and also those who have recovered from COVID-19 and those who have tested negative to apply for a forgery-proof certificate (in accordance with Art. 6a of the COVID-19 Act). The question of which restrictions may in future be eased with the COVID certificate is under discussion.

Everyone who gets a COVID-19 vaccination in Switzerland should be able to obtain a COVID certificate. The exact process and timeframe are still to be defined. Until the COVID certificate is available, the proof of vaccination issued by vaccination centres will remain valid in Switzerland.

Coverage of vaccination costs

The costs of a COVID-19 vaccination are covered by mandatory health insurance. The costs that are not covered by health insurance are borne by the federal government and the cantons.

The vaccination is thus free of charge for people with mandatory health insurance in Switzerland. You do not have to pay any deductible or copayment.

If you do not have health insurance in Switzerland the COVID-19 vaccination is also free of charge if:

  • You live in Switzerland and, for example, work for a diplomatic or consular representation or an international organisation.
  • You live in Switzerland as an employee on secondment, a student or pensioner.
  • You are a cross-border commuter and are exposed to a risk of infection at work (e.g. healthcare personnel with patient contact or care staff in retirement and care homes).

For these groups the costs of the COVID-19 vaccination will be covered by the Swiss federal government.

The costs will not be covered if you are not in one of the groups of people described above. This is the case, for example, for tourists and Swiss nationals abroad who do not have health insurance in Switzerland. You should have the COVID-19 vaccination at your place of residence.

You will find more detailed information on the funding of the COVID-19 vaccination on the page for health professionals (in German, French and Italian).

Swiss vaccine procurement

The development of vaccines is at an advanced stage or even complete. Discussions continue to be held with various vaccine producers. This is because vaccine development involves uncertainty. The federal government is therefore pursuing several vaccine procurement avenues and is also working internationally to this end.The federal government is also keen to procure different types of vaccine if possible. This increases the chance of having a vaccine that is as optimally effective as possible for different target groups.

Agreements with vaccine producers

The federal government has signed agreements with five vaccine manufacturers. Once a vaccine is approved by Swissmedic, Switzerland receives the number of doses reserved under the terms of the agreement. The vaccine manufacturers deliver the reserved doses to Switzerland in stages over several months. This means that initially the number of doses available is limited.

  • Novavax: 6 million doses of vaccine
  • Curevac: 5 million doses of vaccine
  • Pfizer/BioNTech: 6 million doses of vaccine
  • AstraZeneca: 5.3 million doses of vaccine
  • Moderna: 13.5 million doses of vaccine in 2021 / 7 million doses in 2022

Switzerland gets additional access to vaccines because it is a member of the COVAX programme. Click on the link below for more information on the COVAX programme.

Vaccines

Below you will find detailed information on the vaccines for which Switzerland has a contract, including their properties and approval status.

Approved vaccines

Pfizer/BioNTech

  • Name of vaccine: Comirnaty®
  • Approved: 19 December 2020
  • Origin of manufacturer: United States and Germany
  • Vaccine type: mRNA vaccine
  • Dosage: two doses
  • Efficacy: 95 per cent protection from contracting the disease
  • Approved for age: 16 and over

Moderna

  • Name of vaccine: COVID-19 Vaccine Moderna®
  • Approved: 12 January 2021
  • Origin of manufacturer: United States
  • Vaccine type: mRNA vaccine
  • Dosage: two doses
  • Efficacy: 94 per cent protection from contracting the disease
  • Approved for age: 18 and over

Watch the Swissmedic video to find out how mRNA vaccines such as those from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna work.

Vaccines undergoing the approval process

AstraZeneca

  • Vaccine name: not known
  • Approved: undergoing the approval process at Swissmedic
  • Origin of manufacturer: UK
  • Vaccine type: vector-based vaccine
  • Dosage: not known
  • Efficacy: trials under way
  • Approved for age: not known

Watch the Swissmedic video to find out how vector-based vaccines such as the one from AstraZeneca works.

Curevac

  • Vaccine name: not known
  • Approval: open
  • Origin of manufacturer: Germany
  • Vaccine type: mRNA vaccine
  • Dosage: two doses
  • Efficacy: trials under way
  • Approved for age: not known

Vaccines under development

Novavax

  • Vaccine name: not known
  • Approval: open
  • Origin of manufacturer: United States
  • Vaccine type: protein-based vaccine
  • Dosage: two doses
  • Efficacy: trials under way
  • Approved for age: not known

Development of a vaccine

The development and production of vaccines is a complex and costly task. The requirements placed on quality, effectiveness and, in particular, safety are high. That is why a vaccine has to undergo different development phases during production. A vaccine only moves to the next stage of further development once the existing phase produces good results.

Development phases

1. Pre-clinical phase

The vaccine is tested in the laboratory and on animals. 

2. Clinical phase

The clinical trial is divided into three phases:

Clinical phase I:

Using a small number of healthy volunteers as a sample, it is tested for the first time how people respond to the vaccine and how well tolerated different doses are. The dosage refers to how often and in what quantity the vaccine is provided. During this phase, initial commonly occurring side-effects can also be identified.

Clinical phase II:

In this phase, the vaccine is tested on several hundred volunteers. This shows whether the vaccine produces the desired immunity and which dosage is optimal. In addition, information is collected on the frequency and severity of potential side-effects.

Clinical phase III:

The vaccine is now tested on several thousand volunteers. This phase shows whether the vaccine actually also offers protection against the disease. Rare side-effects and risks are also identified. Furthermore, it is tested for which age or population groups the vaccine can be used.

When the vaccine manufacturer submits an application for authorisation, the next step is for Swissmedic to check all the available results from clinical phases I – III. If Swissmedic is able to confirm the efficacy, safety and quality of the vaccine, it awards market authorisation for Switzerland.

Once a vaccine has been authorised, a vaccine recommendation for the population is issued in cooperation with the Federal Commission for Vaccination FCV (in German, French or Italian). A vaccine is only recommended if the benefits provided by preventing diseases and their complications outweigh the risks associated with the respective vaccine many times over.

3. Follow-up studies (phase IV)

Even after authorisation, vaccine manufacturers must continue to monitor the safety, effectiveness and quality of their vaccine. The manufacturers check on a continuous basis whether rare or serious side-effects occur and report these to Swissmedic. The tolerability of the vaccine within population groups that were not included in the previous studies is also clarified.  

Approval in Switzerland

Swissmedic is responsible for authorisation in Switzerland and decides whether a vaccine can be authorised. If Swissmedic is able to confirm the efficacy, safety and quality of the vaccine, it will grant market approval for Switzerland.

What is vaccination?

Vaccinations are the most effective protection against dangerous infectious diseases. They reduce the vaccinated individual’s risk of infection and falling ill. Furthermore, many vaccines also protect against transmission of pathogens to others, meaning that non-vaccinated members of the population are also protected indirectly.

Using a vaccine, the immune system is “acquainted” with the pathogen that gives rise to a disease without actually triggering the disease. This prepares the body’s own defence system should it be faced with an emergency situation. If a vaccinated person subsequently comes into contact with the pathogen, the immune system can quickly recognise it and render it harmless.

Further information on this topic can be found on the page Vaccinations and prevention.

Swissmedic has a video explaining the way a vaccination works.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Answers to frequently asked questions concerning COVID-19 vaccination can be found here.  

Additional information

 

  • On the Infovac website (available in German, French and Italian) you will find information on the different vaccine types.
  • In the Swissmedic article “Prevention rather than cure” (in German) you will find information on the authorisation of vaccines in Switzerland.
  • On the Swissmedic website you will find a document describing the recommendations for the treatment of patients in clinical trials during the development of a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine.
  • On the FCV website (available in German, French and Italian) you will find the catalogue of questions (analysis framework) used to decide whether a vaccine should be recommended.

Further information

Disease, symptoms, treatment

Information on Covid-19, the symptoms and the range of illness severity as well as the origin of the new coronavirus

Last modification 07.05.2021

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Contact

Federal Office of Public Health FOPH
COVID-19 vaccination Infoline
Tel. +41 58 377 88 92

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