Swiss doctors call for better supplies of vaccines

Vaccines used to be manufactured in plentiful supply in Switzerland. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally

Swiss doctors are demanding improved access to vaccines following repeated shortfalls, not least during the coronavirus pandemic. Vaccine production has dwindled in Switzerland, leaving the country reliant on imports to meet its needs.

This content was published on March 27, 2020 - 17:32

Carlos Quinto, a board member of the Swiss Medical AssociationExternal link (FMH), told the Swiss public broadcaster SRFExternal link that stocks of Pneumovax, which helps patients with respiratory diseases or immune deficiencies to ward off pneumonia, have run out.

“Patients are calling us and we then have to tell them that there is nothing left,” he said.

The Covid-19 pandemic is not the only instance of the supply of vaccines falling short of demand, he added. National campaigns to fight against measles, mumps, rubella or the tick transmitted TBE have run out of vaccines before the end of the campaign.

The main problem is finding secure supplies of vaccines, which are made in countries such as India and China but hardly any more in Switzerland. Vaccine production tailed off at Berna Biotech after it was taken over by Dutch biotechnology company Crucell and later Johnson & Johnson. Novartis sold most of its vaccine unit to GlaxoSmithKline in 2015.

Switzerland applies different regulatory standards for vaccines than most of Europe, complained Quinto. In addition, it does not have the bargaining power of European purchasing chains. This makes it harder to get enough stocks of vaccines.

“The government has to sit at a table with us to find solutions,” demands Quinto.

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