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‘Falling through the cracks’: How foreigners are getting vaccinated in Switzerland

A number of foreigners have received their coronavirus shots while vacationing in Switzerland. How they managed to do so remains a mystery.

‘Falling through the cracks’: How foreigners are getting vaccinated in Switzerland
How some foreigners got a Covid vaccine in Switzerland is a mystery. JACOB KING / POOL / AFP

Only residents and cross-border workers — in other words, those who have Swiss health insurance —are eligible to receive Covid-19 vaccines in Switzerland. 

But according to recent news reports in Swiss media, some foreigners managed to get their jabs in Valais and Graubünden. They were mostly tourists on holidays in ski resorts or foreigners who own second homes in the two cantons.

READ MORE: Can foreigners get vaccinated for Covid-19 in Switzerland?

“Some foreigners did fall through the cracks”, a spokesperson for the health department in Valais told, adding they were predominantly Italians, Dutch, British and French citizens.

It is not clear why these people were not spotted and turned away.

The online appointment platform in both cantons asks for the number of the health insurance policy, without which it is impossible to register.

And upon arrival at the vaccination centre, the person must present their Swiss insurance card. Failure to do so should have sounded an alarm among the personnel.

Reader question: Can I get the coronavirus vaccine in a different Swiss canton to where I live?

When the breaches were finally discovered, cantons started vetting registration forms more thoroughly. Since then, Valais ‘caught’ 250 foreign residents on its appointment platform and removed them from the list.

The phenomenon is not new. At the beginning of March, 165 people living abroad were registered on Geneva’s vaccine website. 

A busload of people from Italy was turned away from one of the canton’s vaccination centres before they could get their shots.

The only exception to the rule  are foreign healthcare workers employed in Swiss hospitals. They can get vaccinated in Switzerland, even without Swiss insurance.

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Public Health Agency recommends two Covid doses next year for elderly

Sweden's Public Health Agency is recommending that those above the age of 80 should receive two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine a year, once in the spring and once in the autumn, as it shifts towards a longer-term strategy for the virus.

Public Health Agency recommends two Covid doses next year for elderly

In a new recommendation, the agency said that those living in elderly care centres, and those above the age of 80 should from March 1st receive two vaccinations a year, with a six month gap between doses. 

“Elderly people develop a somewhat worse immune defence after vaccination and immunity wanes faster than among young and healthy people,” the agency said. “That means that elderly people have a greater need of booster doses than younger ones. The Swedish Public Health Agency considers, based on the current knowledge, that it will be important even going into the future to have booster doses for the elderly and people in risk groups.” 


People between the ages of 65 and 79 years old and young people with risk factors, such as obesity, diabetes, poor kidney function or high blood pressure, are recommended to take one additional dose per year.

The new vaccination recommendation, which will start to apply from March 1st next year, is only for 2023, Johanna Rubin, the investigator in the agency’s vaccination programme unit, explained. 

She said too much was still unclear about how long protection from vaccination lasted to institute a permanent programme.

“This recommendation applies to 2023. There is not really an abundance of data on how long protection lasts after a booster dose, of course, but this is what we can say for now,” she told the TT newswire. 

It was likely, however, that elderly people would end up being given an annual dose to protect them from any new variants, as has long been the case with influenza.