Switzerland’s federal government has increased the amount of money earmarked for SARS-CoV-2 vaccines by CHF 100 million, bringing the total to CHF 400 million.
The announcement came as preliminary trials of a vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech found it to be more than 90% effective in preventing Covid-19 in participants without evidence of prior SARS-CoV-2 infection.
Switzerland had already set aside money to buy 4.5 million doses of a vaccine from Moderna and 5.3 million doses a vaccine from AstraZeneca. The additional money will allow the federal government to consider other vaccines.
Even if there is no obligation to get vaccinated, our role as the government is to ensure that we make it possible for those that do, said Alain Berset, Switzerland’s minister in charge of health.
The Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine, which is taken in two doses three weeks apart, is being tested on around 43,500 people in six countries. However, the recently published results are based on the results on only the first 94 test subjects.
The vaccine is RNA-based, which involves taking a piece of viral genetic code and using it to trigger an immune response. RNA- and DNA-based vaccines are relatively new. Some are currently used by vets on animals, however humans have so far only received them as part of clinical testing.
Pfizer and BioNTech say they will have enough safety data on their vaccine by the third week of November to take it to regulators. Any vaccine used in Switzerland would need to meet Swissmedic safety and effectiveness standards.
Some questions remain on the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. It is unclear how well the vaccine works on high-risk elderly people, whether it stops people spreading the virus and how long the protection might last. In addition, storing the vaccine at an ultra-cold -80 celsius presents logistical challenges.
While it is impossible to know when SARS-CoV-2 vaccines will be available, Switzerland’s Federal Office of Public Health estimates that the the first vaccinations in Switzerland will take place in the first half of 2021.