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HEALTH

‘Unrealistic’: Is Switzerland’s vaccination scheme set for further delays?

The Swiss government promised everyone would be vaccinated by June - but several cantonal doctors are now saying the end of autumn is a more realistic date.

'Unrealistic': Is Switzerland’s vaccination scheme set for further delays?
Photo: DENIS CHARLET / AFP

When Switzerland announced its vaccination plan, one message was made clear: anyone who wanted to be vaccinated in Switzerland would get a jab before the end of June. 

This date is however now in serious doubt, with some cantonal experts indicating vaccinations are set to run well into autumn, reports Switzerland’s NZZ newspaper

READ MORE: How can I get vaccinated for Covid-19 in Switzerland? 

Their concerns appear to be borne out, with the Federal Office of Public Health’s Virginie Masserey on Tuesday appearing to offer a more cautious approach. 

After months of reaffirming that the end of June remained the expected date to have vaccinations carried out, Masserey told the media that the end of summer was a more realistic deadline. 

What is the current situation? 

Vaccinations started in December, but the country’s vaccination scheme has experienced delays due to delivery problems, primarily with the Pfizer-Biontech vaccine, and competition due to demand in other countries

Switzerland’s decision not to approve the AstraZeneca vaccine also put additional pressure on other manufacturers to make up the shortfall. 

READ MORE: Will Switzerland’s rejection of the AstraZeneca vaccine delay vaccinations? 

What are cantonal doctors saying?

The chief cantonal doctor, Rudolf Hauri, told Switzerland’s SRF media outlet that vaccinations for the general public were unlikely to be completed until the end of autumn. 

This was not only due to delivery delays, but problems with the existing vaccination framework. 

“Even if large quantities of vaccines arrive, they cannot simply be inoculated faster than the infrastructure allows,” Hauri said. 

Cantonal doctor Marina Jamnicki, from Graubünden, disagreed with Hauri’s assertion that infrastructure was the problem, arguing cantonal authorities have struggled to tailor and change their infrastructure to reflect fluctuations in deliveries. 

“The canton of Graubünden is constantly adjusting capacities to the delivery quantities.”

Jamnicki however agreed that she cannot see more than 60 or 70 percent of the population being vaccinated before the end of autumn. 

The NZZ reported on Wednesday that a major issue was guaranteeing the security of the vaccine, given that the Pfizer-Biontech and Moderna varieties need to be kept below -60 degrees celsius. 

Which cantons are well-equipped – and which are not? 

As with almost everything in Switzerland, there are large differences between the cantons when it comes to vaccine infrastructure and approaches. 

Zurich, Jura and Appenzeller Inneroden have said their vaccination logistics is established and ready. 

All vaccinations can be carried out by the end of summer – provided enough are delivered. 

In Fribourg however, authorities believe they will not be able to stick to a summer deadline – even if supply increases dramatically in May. 

“If we can only work at full speed in May, it will be too late to vaccinate everyone who wants to by the end of June.”

UPDATED: Which Swiss cantons are vaccinating fastest against coronavirus?

Officials in Thurgau said the major problem was the government’s promises about vaccinations which created high expectations. 

“Expectations have been created that cannot be fulfilled with the current quantities of vaccines. This provokes a lot of strife in the population,” said Thurgau health director Urs Martin told the NZZ. 

Martin said the canton had been receiving thousands of calls each week about the vaccination scheme – 95 percent of which have been critical. 

What role are the mutations playing?

Bern cantonal doctor Linda Nartey said the spread of the mutations is playing a role in the delays. 

“Now the Brazilian and South African variants are causing us more worries and more work,” Nartey said. 

More than 6,000 infections of a mutated form of coronavirus have now been detected in Switzerland.

According to official government figures, 2,381 of those mutations are of the British variant, along with 96 of the South African variant.

Three cases of the Brazilian variant have been detected in Switzerland. A further 3,526 are of an “unknown origin” according to the Swiss government.

READ MORE: Which cantons are Switzerland’s coronavirus mutation hotspots? 

Member comments

  1. Thank you for the helpful update. Please keep them coming!

    Wish they would allow access to the AstraZeneca vaccine, millions of doses have been given in the UK and expect there would be plenty of volunteers in Switzerland that would take the risk (myself included!).

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HEALTH

The essential Swiss websites you need to use for health matters

If you just moved to Switzerland (or even if you have lived here for a while), your learning curve about health-related matters in the country may be steep. These sites will help you find the information you need.

The essential Swiss websites you need to use for health matters

Staying healthy is probably one of your top priorities, but doing so in a foreign country is not easy.

That is why having some reliable resources that you can check out and follow will be helpful.

First: The Local

No, we are not doctors, but we have published a number of factual articles over the years about many aspects of healthcare in Switzerland that our readers find helpful.

You can find a compilation of these health-related stories here

Federal Office of Public Health 

Obviously, when it comes to matters of health, the Health Ministry has lots of information that will be relevant to you at one time or another.

Aside from matters of health policy (which is important for all residents of Switzerland), the site also has a regularly updated Infectious Diseases Dashboard to let you know what communicable illnesses are currently circulating in Switzerland — and how to avoid them.

It also provides age-specific health information and recommendations — for instance, for children and teenagers, as well as for the elderly.

Hospital websites

Individual hospitals in your area are good sources of information as well, and many of them are in English.

You can find there general health information, care and treatment options, online emergency room signup, new medical technologies being used, and other patient resources:

Geneva University Hospitals (HUG)

Vaud University Hospital (CHUV)

Zurich University Hospital

Basel University Hospital 

If you live in an area without a university medical centre, your local hospital is also a valuable source of health-related information.

Appointment booking platform

This website is especially useful for people who don’t yet have a doctor in Switzerland but need to set an appointment with one. 

It gives you an option of choosing a specialty and location, and then displays doctor’s names and addresses, background information about them, and which time slots they have available.

You can easily set up an appointment this way.

Your health insurer’s website

This may not be an intuitive choice for impartial information about healthcare but you may be surprised.

For instance, Sanitas insurance site has information about emergency care decisions, and how to void unnecessary medical treatments.

CSS has health information geared specifically to men and women.

Helsana talks about ways to combat stress and sleep problems.

These are just a few examples on what valuable tips you can find on your insurer’s website.

Websites devoted to specific medical conditions

If you seek information about a specific illness — such as treatment options in Switzerland — there are plenty of online resources for that as well.

For instance:

Heart and cardiovascular 

Diabetes 

Osteoporosis 

Mental illness 

General pain 

Other diseases 

Last but not least, while not related to health, these websites will also provide useful information for international residents:

The Swiss websites that can help you save money
 
The most useful website resources to help you get Swiss citizenship 
 
 

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