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Do you need a booster shot for the Swiss Covid certificate?

Rules related to certificates, and Covid-19 in general, are changing quickly in Switzerland. This is what may lie ahead.

You may soon need a booster shot to access restaurants and other indoor venues in Switzerland. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
You may soon need a booster shot to access restaurants and other indoor venues in Switzerland. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Since December 20th, when the 2G rule was enforced in Switzerland, only those who are vaccinated or have recovered from coronavirus within the last four months can access indoor public venues upon showing their Covid certificates.

READ MORE: 2G: Switzerland targets unvaccinated with new Covid measures

This includes people who have had their two shots of the vaccine but not yet the third one. However, this may change soon, as legislators are calling on the Federal Council to make the certificate valid only after a booster dose.

They argue that the current Covid certificate, valid 365 days after the second shot, no longer reflects latest warnings from health experts that Omicron variant may diminish vaccination protection, especially among the elderly and vulnerable group.

“Current data shows that Covid-19 vaccination provides only reduced protection against the Omicron variant. Protection can be increased with a booster”, the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) announced on Tuesday.

Until now, boosters were recommended six months after initial immunisation. But new data “increasingly indicates that protection against infection and disease is significantly lower and declines more rapidly with the Omicron variant than with the Delta variant. Data also shows that a booster vaccination can greatly improve protection against infection by Omicron”, FOPH said.

Switzerland’s Covid-19 Task Force also confirmed the diminishing protection of the vaccination, saying a  third dose increases protection against Delta back to at least 95 percent, and against Omicron to around 60 to 85 percent, at least for a short time.

As a result of these findings, FOPH now recommends a booster dose four months after the second shot, instead of six months recommended previously.

Given the new data, “the Covid certificate is outdated,” said Peter Metzinger, a municipal councilor of Dietikon, Zurich.  

“If the vaccination protection and the virus change, the certificate must also be adapted. It must be updated as soon as possible and have the booster as the new vaccination standard”, he added.

MP Mustafa Atici also supports the idea of ​​making the Covid certificate conditional on the third dose. “According to scientists, the triple vaccination offers the best protection. The booster must quickly become a new benchmark for the certificate”, he said.

A similar measure is already in effect in France. From mid-January, the country’s health pass will be deactivated seven months after the administration of the 2nd dose for all those who have not received a booster in the meantime. The measure is already in effect for people 65 and over, who had access to the third shot earlier.

The government has not yet said whether a booster will be required to get a certificate in Switzerland, but the announcement is expected before the end of the year.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What is Switzerland’s 2G-Plus rule?

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Switzerland to start dual-strain Covid boosters in October

The long-awaited second booster shots will be rolled in Switzerland from October 10th, the Health Ministry announced on Friday.

Switzerland to start dual-strain Covid boosters in October

Less than two weeks after drug regulator Swissmedic approved the new version of the Moderna vaccine, which should better target certain sub-variants of Omicron, the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) said on Friday the shots will be available to some groups of the population from October 10th.

“The vaccination recommendation for autumn 2022 aims primarily to protect vulnerable people against a severe form of the disease. On the one hand, people aged 65 or over, and on the other hand, those aged 16 to 64 with an increased risk, for example due to a pre-existing disease or pregnancy”; FOPH said in a statement on Friday.

After that, those “aged 16 to 64, without risk factors and who work in acute and long-term care, or who care for vulnerable people in a professional or private capacity” will be eligible for the shots, FOPH said.Health officials noted that while the number of Covid infection is currently “relatively low, an increase in transmissions of the virus is expected from the fall of 2022. The risk of contracting Covid-19 and the burden for the health system could therefore increase again”.

It added, however, that “the situation differs markedly from that of the last two winters; currently, 97 percent of the population have antibodies against Covid following vaccination or recovery. “People without risk factors are unlikely to develop severe symptoms this fall”.

Dual-strain vaccine

In recent trials, the new Moderna vaccine demonstrated “higher antibody concentrations against the Omicron variants” than the manufacturer’s original Covid vaccine, Swissmedic said.

The previous vaccine was effective against early strains, like Alpha and Delta, offering no immunity against Omicron or its sub-variants, which are currently responsible for all the coronavirus infections detected in Switzerland.

“Compared to the original vaccine, trials have shown that this [vaccine] produces a stronger immune response against the Omicron variants BA.1 and BA.4/5″, Swissmedic said, adding that the new vaccine remains as effective as its predecessor against the original Covid viruses.

Additionally, “a careful review of the application documents submitted on an ongoing basis showed that the vaccine meets the safety, efficacy and quality requirements », the agency noted.

Also, in terms of secondary effects, they are expected to be “similar” to those following administration of the second dose and the first the booster of the original vaccine: fever, muscle pains, and headaches.

According to FOPH, “the bivalent mRNA vaccines, which are tailored to the Omicron BA.1 variant, should be preferred for booster vaccination. However, it is still possible to use the current monovalent mRNA vaccine”.

Additionally, protein-based Nuvaxovid doses will also be available.

READ MORE: BREAKING: Switzerland approves new Covid-19 boosters