From 10 October 2022, booster vaccine shots against the SARS-CoV-2 virus will be available free of charge across Switzerland. The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) is recommending everyone 16 and over get a booster shot.
A key aim of the vaccination programme is to reduce the load on hospitals over the autumn flu season, with a focus on protecting those at especially high risk from the disease and the health professionals in close contact with vulnerable people. The costs of the booster will be covered by the federal government.
According to FOPH, both the number of reported cases of SARS-CoV-2 infections and the proportion of positive tests are currently increasing significantly. Rising infection rates have also been observed by national wastewater monitoring, where the viral load measured in wastewater is rising.
Although the number of intensive care beds occupied by COVID-19 patients and reported deaths remain at a very low level, a further increase in infections should be expected, said FOPH. A further booster can contribute to reducing the number of severe cases and thus to preventing the healthcare system from becoming overstretched in autumn and winter, it said.
The vaccination recommendation is aimed particularly at vulnerable people, which includes those over 65 years old and those with an increased individual health risk, for instance due to a pre-existing illness or pregnancy. In addition, those without risk factors, who work in acute and long-term care or look after especially vulnerable people professionally or privately are advised to get vaccinated. A booster offers these individuals a certain protection against infection accompanied by disease, and can also reduce absences from work to a certain extent, said FOPH.
Three vaccines are being offered. The original mRNA Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines along with a new Moderna vaccine which contains 50% of the original and 50% of a new formulation targeting the Omicron (BA.1) variant.
Claire-Anne Siegrist, head of vaccines at Geneva’a HUG hospital, told RTS that there is no target rate of vaccination this time. Siegrist said that older or vulnerable people suffering from illness should not wait to boost their immunity. For young people in good health it’s different. The situation is completely different to last year because 97% of the population has a base immunity, said Siegrist.
Another consideration is travel. Some countries, such as the US, still require visitors to be up to date on Covid-19 vaccinations – see IATA map here.