Coronavirus: Vaccination

Swissmedic has approved two COVID-19 vaccines for Switzerland. Vaccination was started in most cantons on 4 January 2021. Especially vulnerable people are being vaccinated first.

COVID-19 vaccination infoline

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On 12 January 2021 Swissmedic approved the second COVID-19 vaccine for Switzerland. The federal government has signed an agreement to secure 7.5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine. The first doses of the vaccine will be delivered in January 2021.

The Comirnaty® vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech was approved by Swissmedic on 19 December 2020. On the basis of the safety, efficacy and quality data the vaccine is suitable without age restrictions for all adults age 16 and over.

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

Please find out from your canton where you can get the vaccination. You’ll find a list of cantonal websites here: www.foph-coronavirus.ch/cantons

Goals of vaccinating for COVID-19

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 for COVID-19 are thus 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 is to be vaccinated?

The plan is to prioritise vaccination of target groups of people age 16 as follows:

  • Target group 1: People at especially high risk (vulnerable people; excluding pregnant women)
  • 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).

Given that as vaccination starts there are not sufficient doses of vaccine available, further prioritisation is necessary within target group 1.

The following people are to be given access to vaccinations first:

  • People age 75 and over
  • People with chronic diseases of the highest risk, regardless of their age

After that come:

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

If you are in the group of people with chronic diseases of the highest risk, the doctor treating you will urgently recommend you to have the vaccination as soon as possible.

Following people in target group 1, the vaccination will be offered to people in target groups 2, 3 and 4 in that order. In due course adults who are not in target groups 1 to 4 will also be able to have the vaccination.

It is not yet planned to vaccinate children. Study data for the relevant age groups is not yet available.

Even though vaccination protects against illness, it is not yet clear whether it will prevent transmission of the coronavirus. The hygiene and social distancing rules therefore remain important measures to protect yourself and others from the coronavirus.

Vaccinations are voluntary in Switzerland. There are no plans for compulsory COVID-19 vaccination. You can always decide for yourself whether you want to be vaccinated.

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 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.

Vaccination begins as soon as vaccination recommendations are available for a vaccine. The first vaccination recommendation for Comirnaty® from Pfizer/BioNTech has been in place since 22 December 2020. Among other things this recommendation contains details of who is to be vaccinated first in accordance with the vaccination strategy, and what groups will be vaccinated if supplies of vaccine are limited. You will find information on this in the section Who is to be vaccinated?

Once further vaccines are approved the vaccination recommendations will be amended.

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. Vaccination is therefore free of charge for the population.

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.

Reservation agreements with vaccine producers

So far the federal government has signed contracts with the manufacturers Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca.

Two vaccines have received Swissmedic approval:

  • 19 December 2020: the Comirnaty® vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech
  • 12 January 2021: the vaccine from Moderna

The AstraZeneca vaccine is currently undergoing the approval process at Swissmedic.

Switzerland is also a member of the COVAX programme, giving it additional access to vaccines.

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. It is for this reason that the production of a vaccine has to pass through different development phases. 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). 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 a vaccine?

Vaccines are among the most effective and cost-effective medical preventive measures, providing 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 may 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 12.01.2021

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Please refer instead to our webpages, which are continuously updated.

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