Health regulator Swissmedic has given the green light for the ‘immediate’ use of the vaccine produced by US company Moderna. The country has already pre-ordered 7.5 million shots, 200,000 of which will be delivered on Wednesday.
The vaccine satisfied all the “strict requirements for safety, efficacy, and quality and can be used with immediate effect in Switzerland”, Swissmedic wroteExternal link on Tuesday.
Swissmedic director Raimund Bruhin said the approval marked “another important step forward in enabling a large proportion of the population to be vaccinated quickly against Covid-19.”
The regulator said studies showed an efficacy rate for the vaccine of 94% 14 days after a second dose had been administered.
It’s the second vaccine to be approved in the country after Pfizer/BionTech’s was cleared for use on December 20. Both vaccines rely on similar MNRA technology, and both are two dose, with jabs being administered around a month apart.
In its comment on the Moderna vaccine, Swissmedic said it was important to stick to the recommended interval, and not to defer the second jab. It also warned against “combining” different vaccines – “there is no information at all on the interchangeability”, it wrote.
Vaccinations using the Pfizer/BioNTech drug began just before Christmas, and have since been ramping up across the country.
In total, Switzerland has ordered 15.8 million shots for its population of 8.6 million: 3 million from Pfizer/BioNTech, 7.5 million from Moderna and 5.3 million from Oxford/AstraZeneca.
Cantonal vaccination campaigns began in late December after an initial 234,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine delivered with the help of the Swiss army.
Around 200,000 new Moderna shots will arrive in Switzerland on Wednesday. An additional 126,750 Pfizer/BioNTech doses will follow on January 18, which will allow 4% of Swiss adults to be covered, said Nora Kronig, deputy director of the Federal Health Office. These batches will be followed by one million doses of vaccines in February, she added.
The plan is to vaccinate six million people, or 70% of the population by summer – a task that would involve up to 70,000 shots being administered per day. Over 75s and vulnerable people should get a shot by the end of February, followed by 70% of over-65s by the end of March. The rest of the population should then follow.
Christoph Berger, president of the Federal Commission for Vaccinations, welcomed the approval of the Moderna vaccine.
"We can now significantly increase our vaccination campaign," he told reporters in Bern on Tuesday. He insisted that the arrival of a second vaccine would not change vaccination group priorities, and urged the Swiss public to be patient.
Production and distribution
Moderna this year enlisted Swiss contract drug manufacturer Lonza to make active vaccine ingredients at three new production lines in Visp, Switzerland, for non-US markets. They are due to supply a combined 300 million doses annually. In parallel, new production lines at Lonza’s site in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, will start making vaccine ingredients exclusively for the US.
Once Lonza-made ingredients are completed at Visp, they are deep-frozen and sent to Laboratorios Farmaceuticos ROVI, near Madrid, Spain, for "fill and finish", to be put in vials and loaded on pallets.
Swiss logistics firm Kuehne + Nagel is ensuring the worldwide distribution of the Moderna vaccine doses from production sites based in Europe. This includes distribution to markets in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa, as well as parts of the Americas.
For Switzerland and the rest of Europe, it transports Moderna's vaccine from ROVI and Recipharm sites in Spain and France to its Belgium hub, then coordinate distribution throughout Europe.
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