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Why Swiss officials are fearing a ‘revolution of the vaccinated’

According to an internal report, the Swiss government is fearful of protests among the vaccinated. Here’s why.

Why Swiss officials are fearing a ‘revolution of the vaccinated’
Should vaccinated people be upset if they need to lockdown again due to anti-vaxxers? Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Protests have been common since the early days of the pandemic. 

Whether these have been against the measures, against the vaccine for the virus or even denying the existence of the virus themselves, these protests have largely been populated by conspiracy theorists and far-right groups. 

However, according to a new internal government report, Switzerland is fearing an uprising of those who have already been vaccinated. 

Why are Swiss authorities fearing a “revolution of the vaccinated”? 

So why would people who acknowledge the existence of the virus and understand its dangers enough to get vaccinated start to protest? 

READ MORE: How to register for the coronavirus vaccine in your Swiss canton

According to the leaked report, the reason is simple: vaccinated people may become increasingly upset when they are required to adopt harsher lockdown measures primarily because large sections of the population continue to refuse to be vaccinated. 

Officials are concerned about a rise in infections, hospitalisations and even deaths in autumn when the weather turns colder and people return from summer vacations. 

The “new wave” of the virus is likely to be exacerbated by the fact that fewer people have been vaccinated than Switzerland expected, while the Delta variant is spreading much faster than had been expected. 

Due to this it will be “very difficult to prevent a renewed increase in hospital occupancy due to Covid-19 in the hospitals in autumn”. 

As a consequence, Switzerland is mulling additional restrictions in order to curb the rising case rates, including strict lockdowns. 

This is expected to cause concern among those who have already been vaccinated, primarily because only those who have decided not to get vaccinated are likely to be hit hard by another wave of the virus. 

The leaked document predicts “further protests” if lockdowns are reintroduced, “probably also among the vaccinated part of the population”, which Swiss media is calling “a revolution of the vaccinated”. 

With just under 50 percent of people fully vaccinated in Switzerland – and a further six percent having received their first shot – almost half of the Swiss population remains unvaccinated, amounting to a total of around three million people. 

Evidence from Europe and elsewhere shows that while those who have been vaccinated can contract the virus again, they are hit by comparatively milder symptoms. 

They can however carry and transmit the virus in some cases, which would place those who have not been vaccinated – particularly those who cannot be vaccinated due to health reasons – at a greater risk if lockdown measures are not reintroduced. 

As reported by The Local Switzerland in early August, prominent Swiss epidemiologists are calling for measures to be further relaxed, including the mask mandate for shops, supermarkets and museums. 

READ MORE: Will Switzerland relax the mask mandate in supermarkets, shops and museums?

Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset however said that he was reluctant to endorse such a policy change, particularly with case numbers currently on the rise. 

What measures could be introduced in autumn?  

At a press conference on Tuesday, August 3rd, Swiss authorities said they were considering which measures could be reintroduced should case numbers, hospitalisations and deaths rise again in August. 

The goal of reintroduced measures would be to ensure the health care system is not overloaded, said Lukas Engelberger, the president of the cantonal health directors. 

“When it gets cooler outside, we will see whether we are well positioned,” Engelberger said. 

However, the government was reluctant to indicate which measures could be tightened, however the government indicated it would consider putting in place different rules for vaccinated and unvaccinated people when everyone had the chance to get the vaccine. 

This might include requiring vaccinations for certain activities, rather than also allowing for negative tests and proof of recovery from the virus as is currently allowed in Switzerland. 

“It can become a topic that only those who have recovered and who have been vaccinated have access to major events. Otherwise testing becomes the new vaccination, and that’s not good,” said National Councilor Lorenz Hess. 

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Switzerland’s Covid vaccine programme to restart in autumn

Amid expectations of a further wave of the virus, on Monday, Switzerland's Office of Public Health (BAG) is set to issue new recommendations for people in certain at-risk groups to have vaccinations against Covid-19.

Switzerland's Covid vaccine programme to restart in autumn

According to research carried out by Swiss news weekly Weltwoche and CH Media, the Federal Office of Public Health and the Federal Commission for Vaccination Issues will recommend that those over 65, and people over 16 with “increased individual health risks because of a pre-existing condition or Trisomy 21” are vaccinated with an mRNA vaccine. Pregnant women should also be vaccinated in the autumn.

The government clearly wants to be prepared. According to internal documents, authorities are ordering 1.3 million vaccines doses from each of manufacturers Moderna and Pfizer. In addition, a delivery from Novavax and another from Moderna are expected in October, according to CH Media.

The official announcement is expected this Monday and the BAG will also make it clear that the vaccination should only be given “after the treating doctor has assessed the individual risks and benefits”. 

It was only announced on Monday that from September to December, those living in Zurich would once again be able to get tested for Covid-19 free of charge. This offer applies to all residents of the city of Zurich who are either symptomatic or who have had contact with a person who has tested positive. 

Those who don’t have symptoms, who haven’t been in contact with people who have tested positive for the virus or who need a test for travel purposes will still have to pay for the test.