When will Switzerland ignite the vaccine turbo? In the EU, corona vaccinations start at the beginning of the year, in the US and Great Britain before Christmas. In Switzerland, however, there is not even a vaccination plan! The Federal Office of Public Health said at the beginning of the week, “In the coming weeks, we will provide insight into the key features of the Covid 19 vaccination strategy.” A vaccination is expected in the first half of 2021. Why is it taking so long for us?
In order to be able to vaccinate, two basic requirements are required: Medicines must be available. And the competent authority (Swissmedic) must have approved the vaccination in Switzerland.
Vaccinations are there, approval is not
The first condition has been met. Pfizer has announced that it can deliver the first drugs hours after approval (in the US), while other manufacturers are not far behind. The BAG has signed contracts for 12.8 million vaccine doses and states that Switzerland should be supplied at the same time as the larger, more economically interesting markets, according to the companies.
Admission becomes a challenge. While other countries want to market the vaccine before it is fully tested, Switzerland wants to wait until all regulatory testing is done. This is to ensure that a vaccination is only introduced if the effect outweighs the side effects: “Despite the urgency to be able to use an effective vaccine against the new coronavirus, the safety of the Swiss population has the highest priority for Swissmedic” , says the Authority.
“I find that embarrassing”
This approach creates unrest and misunderstanding. “I find that embarrassing”, says national councilor Jörg Mäder (45, GLP) against BLICK. “It can’t be that the other licensing authorities are all sloppy.” With such a virus that paralyzes all social and economic life, action must be accelerated and exceptions made. “It will be another session next week. We representatives of the people are ready to overturn the agenda for this topic. The Federal Council knows who to talk to. “Unfortunately, in essence,” the federal government, and especially the BAG, very often slows down drug approvals. “
National councilor Lorenz Hess (59, CVP) sees it differently. “It is good that more thorough and better controls are being carried out in Switzerland. Imagine, in a few months it turns out that something went wrong in the approval stages and that the vaccine is deficient. “Then the enormous confidence in a vaccination is not completely gone.
Long-term data is also lacking in the spring
Long-term data is missing with rapid approval. Only: this will also not exist if vaccinations are not given in Switzerland until the spring of 2021. Testing new vaccines usually takes several years. Products that are now on the market have been developed within a few months. That is why the answers remain open: for example whether the vaccination can also prevent transmission or only certain diseases. Or how the effect changes when the virus mutates.
Switzerland also needs to clarify several questions. The vaccination is free, federal councilor Alain Berset (48) made clear on Thursday. But how do the federal government, cantons and health insurers divide the costs? How is the distribution? What vaccination quota is pursued? And: who is liable if everything does not go as expected?
Berset makes steam
The other countries are also aware of these risks, but we are still moving forward. There is a realization that extraordinary measures are again needed in this extraordinary situation. Switzerland can do this, as it proved in the spring.
Now the Federal Council is also making steam. Berset speaks to the approval authority: “At Swissmedic, they know there is no Christmas holiday.” And: In the first half of the year there is suddenly no longer a vaccine. Berset says the first doses of the vaccine should be available as early as January. However, mass vaccinations should not be possible until the spring – but this is also the case in other countries.