Swiss target 80% vaccination rate amid Delta variant concerns

To reach 80% of the population, some 1.5-2 million more people would need to be vaccinated. Keystone / Peter Klaunzer

Switzerland plans to boost its Covid-19 vaccination campaign over the summer with the aim to reach 80% of the population according to the Sunday papers. This comes amid growing concerns about the more contagious Delta coronavirus variant.

This content was published on June 27, 2021 - 12:15

To date, around 4.2 million people in Switzerland have received at least one dose of an mRNA vaccine (Moderna or Pfizer/BioNtech). This amounts to around 50% of the entire population and just under 60% of the adult population.

According to sources contacted by the German-language paper NZZamSonntagExternal link, the government would like to accelerate the vaccination campaign amid concerns about the Delta variant initially found in India.

“In order to avert a heavy wave next autumn, it is necessary that as many people as possible have been vaccinated against the coronavirus by then,” said Urs Karrer, Vice President of the National Covid-19 Science Task Force. “It takes more than 60% of the adult population in Switzerland. The aim is to achieve a vaccination coverage rate of 80%." 

The Federal Office of Public Health had originally estimated that herd immunity could be reached when 60-70% of the population had received jabs.

Karrer added that he expects the Delta variant to be the dominant coronavirus variant found in Switzerland in four to six weeks. While mRNA vaccines have shown effectiveness against the variant, it is about 50% more contagious, which means that if restrictions are lifted around 60% of the unvaccinated population could be infected, estimated Karrer. This could place considerable stress on hospitals and intensive care units.

Campaign boost

To speed up and expand vaccinations, the government and cantons are considering various options according to the paper.

One is around communication and education. Danièle Bersier, spokeswoman for the Federal Office of Public Health, said that communication is focused on various target groups, such as young women to “dispel myths” such as alleged infertility caused by vaccination.

Other efforts include lowering the threshold for vaccination. Some cantons will offer mobile vaccination stations at local supermarket chains and shopping centres, while others are offering jabs in companies.

Calls for caution

On Saturday, Switzerland took a major step towards full re-opening with the end of the mask-wearing obligation outside and the resumption of large events. Some health experts remain cautiously optimistic though.

In an interviewExternal link with SonntagsZeitung, epidemiologist Andreas Cerny warned of a fourth wave in autumn and called for Switzerland to learn from the experience of other countries.

“I would have liked a somewhat slower opening and would have given the developments with the new Delta variant in the UK, Israel and Portugal more weight in the risk assessment.” Cerny said that he trusts the country will act more quickly and with more conviction after the experience of last autumn, when there was a surge in cases that led the government to reintroduce restrictions.

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