Swiss government forced to halve 2023 Covid vaccine orders

Switzerland has destroyed thousands of expired vaccines in its stockpile. Keystone / Pablo Gianinazzi

A divided Swiss parliament has demanded that the government tear up orders for 14 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines and renegotiate contracts for half of this supply.

This content was published on June 16, 2022

Switzerland had ordered seven million doses from Pfizer/Biontech and the same amount from Moderna to protect the population from future waves of infectionsExternal link. The orders were to cover Switzerland’s 8.9 million population in 2023.

The extent of the order has divided parliament, with the House of Representatives agreeing with the decision but the Senate saying the combined order is excessive.

The disagreement could not be settled on Thursday, but in cases of procurement the argument that saves the state money must take precedence.

This means that the Senate prevailed in their argument, which will force the government to slash its order in half to seven million doses. This is expected to reduce the bill from CHF780 million ($780 million) to CHF560 million.

A million doses of a non-mRNA vaccine have also been ordered from another (unnamed) manufacturer.

Finance Minister Ueli Maurer warned that Switzerland might have to pay more for each dose as the same price might not be on offer now.

Last month the Federal Office of Public Health confirmed that around 620,000 doses of Moderna vaccine in its existing stockpile had been destroyedExternal link because they had expired. It could not be ruled out that other batches could suffer the same fate.

In February, it was announced that Switzerland is to donate a maximum of 15 million shots of coronavirus vaccine in the first half of this year to the COVAX initiativeExternal link for equitable vaccine distribution.

For 2022, 34 million doses have already been acquired - 20 million for the first half of the year and 14 million for the second. Around 70% of the population have been vaccinated.

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