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COVID-19 VACCINES

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
A shot in the arm: Switzerland is ready to roll out new booster shots. Image by LuAnn Hunt from Pixabay

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
 
 

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COVID-19 VACCINE

EXPLAINED: Who should get a new Covid booster vaccine in Switzerland?

On Monday October 10th, Switzerland rolled out the new vaccines, which are adapted to better target Omicron and its sub-variants.

EXPLAINED: Who should get a new Covid booster vaccine in Switzerland?

In August, Switzerland’s drug regulator, Swissmedic, has approved a Moderna booster vaccine, which has demonstrated a “higher antibody concentrations against the Omicron variants” than the manufacturer’s original Covid vaccine.

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

“The revised Covid-19 vaccine recommendations come into effect on Monday, October 10th, 2022”, The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), said in a statement on Thursday.

It added that this booster “can contribute to reducing the number of severe cases and thus prevent the healthcare system from becoming overstretched in autumn and winter”.

That is all the more important as the number of reported infections “is currently increasing significantly” FOPH said.

Latest data shows that nearly 50 percent more cases were detected in Switzerland in the past seven days than at the same time in the previous week.

Who, according to health officials, should get this second booster?

FOPH and the Federal Commission for Vaccination (FCV) “recommend the booster primarily for persons at especially high risk and health professionals. However, the vaccine is also recommended for anyone aged over 16 years”, FOPH said.

Specifically, people aged over 65 years and those with chronic health conditions should have the shot, as “this group is at the highest risk of contracting severe forms of Covid”.

The recommendation also applies to those between 16 and 64 years without risk factors, but who work in acute and long-term care.

There is also a general recommendation for all other people aged between 16 and 64 years without risk factors.

“For them, getting a booster is sensible if they wish to reduce the risk of infection or a rare, severe form of the disease. Unlike at the start of the pandemic, however, people without risk factors are at low risk of contracting severe disease this autumn”, FOPH said.

Who should not get ‘boosted’?

Even though in January 2022, Switzerland approved Covid vaccines for youngsters from the age of five, the new one “is not recommended for children and adolescents aged between five and 15 years, as their risk of a severe form of COVID-19 is very low », FOPH said.

How is the new vaccine different from the previous one?

The previous vaccine, which has been administered in Switzerland since its rollout in January 2022,  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.

The new vaccine is called ‘dual-strain’ precisely because it tackles both the original Covid virus and the newer Omicron variant.

Can this second booster protect you from catching Covid this autumn / winter?

Neither Moderna nor health officials give you this guarantee.

However, it can protect you from having a severe form of the disease — serious enough to end up in the hospital.

“A booster at least temporarily improves the individual protection against severe symptoms”, FOPH said, which is the reason why it is primarily recommended for people whose immunity systems are weakened, either by age or chronic diseases.

Is this new vaccine safe and what side effects can you expect?

Before approving this vaccine for the Swiss market, Swissmedic conducted “a careful review” of available data.

“They showed that the vaccine meets the safety, efficacy and quality requirements”, the agency said.

As for side 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.

Boosters will be free of charge to all residents of Switzerland. They are administered by cantons and appointments can be booked online through the cantonal sites.

READ MORE: Switzerland to start dual-strain Covid boosters in October

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