Booster shots: Switzerland orders seven million Covid doses for 2022 and 2023

Switzerland announced Wednesday that it has signed a new contract with Pfizer for seven million Covid vaccine doses next year and in 2023, with an eye towards providing future booster shots.

Booster shots: Switzerland orders seven million Covid doses for 2022 and 2023
Swiss health minister Alain Berset. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

The new contract with the US pharma giant also contains the option for an additional seven million doses each year after that, the government said in a statement.

The country of 8.6 million people already has contracts for some six million Pfizer doses and 13.5 million Moderna doses this year.

The statement said the new contract meant the government had “reserved sufficient vaccines from both vaccine manufacturers to be able to offer booster shots to the public if necessary.”

The announcement came a day after the World Health Organization hit out at the “shocking disparity” in coronavirus vaccines, as wealthy countries buy up doses for third shots while millions in poorer nations yet to have access to a first.

READ MORE: Which Swiss cantons are already offering Covid booster shots?

Switzerland also has contracts for millions of vaccine doses made by AstraZeneca, Curevac and Novavax, but currently only the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna jabs are in use in the country. Like a number of other European countries, Switzerland is currently in the throes of a fourth wave of Covid infections.

Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset told reporters Wednesday that the number of hospitalisations was soaring, but said the situation was under control, for now.

In a bid to rein in the infections, he said the government was now contemplating extending the requirement to display a certificate of vaccination or a negative Covid test — already needed to go to nightclubs and large demonstrations — to gain access to restaurants, museums, theatres and most other indoor events.

READ MORE: Switzerland proposes Covid certificates indoors in bars, restaurants and gyms

The government has also decided to require payment for tests taken to obtain a Covid certificate, in an effort to drive up vaccination rates.

According to Bern, only 56 percent of the Swiss population has received at least one vaccine dose, compared to 63 percent in the EU.

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Switzerland authorises Moderna vaccine for children over six

Children between the ages of six and 11 will now be able to get a Moderna shot, Swiss health authority said.

Switzerland authorises Moderna vaccine for children over six

Until now only the Pfizer vaccine has been approved in Switzerland for this group, starting at age five.

However, on Friday the country’s drug regulatory body, Swissmedic, gave the green light to start administering Moderna’s vaccine to children over six, who will receive two half doses of 50 micrograms at an interval of four weeks.

Those over 12 and adults are injected the full dose.

The agency said that based on clinical studies, young kids react to the Moderna vaccine much like older children and adults do.

“The most commonly reported side effects such as pain, redness or swelling at the injection site, fatigue, headache, shivering or nausea, were similar to those in adolescents and young adults”. Swissmedic said.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about Covid vaccines for children in Switzerland

Also, “fever occurred more frequently in children, whereas muscle and joint pains were seen less often than in adolescents or adults. The undesirable effects were generally mild to moderate and lasted for a few days”.

While some parents may be reluctant to vaccinate their children against the coronavirus, health officials say the vaccines are safe. They also argue that in order to achieve herd immunity, all age groups should have their shots.

While the number of Covid infections has dropped significantly in Switzerland in the past two months, epidemiologists are predicting a new outbreak in the fall and winter, when cooler weather drives more people indoors, where the yet-unknown variants will be more transmissible.

READ MORE: How can I get my children vaccinated against Covid in Switzerland?