Swiss should intensify cooperation with Covax, say experts

Some of the poorest countries in the world currently have as little as 0.1 Covid vaccine doses per 100 inhabitants, the SonntagsZeitung reported. Keystone / Antonio Dasiparu

To effectively fight the global pandemic, rich countries like Switzerland should donate their surplus Covid-19 vaccines to poorer countries immediately, says Thomas Cueni, president of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations.

This content was published on July 25, 2021 - 14:54

“We won’t get out of the pandemic unless everyone is vaccinated,” Cueni told the SonntagsZeitung newspaper, adding that a problem with distribution – and not production – of the vaccine was preventing poorer countries from inoculating their populations.

Pharmaceutical companies from Europe to Asia are capable of manufacturing 11 billion doses of the Covid vaccine by the end of 2021, said the Swiss national, who sits on the coordination committee of the Covax Initiative aimed at guaranteeing universal access to the vaccine.

“This would be enough to vaccinate the world's adult population, if the vaccines were distributed fairly.”

While Switzerland has purchased enough vaccines for its entire population and approved vaccination for adolescents, Haiti has less than 0.1 vaccine doses per 100 inhabitants, the newspaper reported. Many countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East suffer from a similar lack of vaccines.

"It's shocking that certain rich countries have started vaccinating 12- to 16-year-olds, while many poor countries don't even have vaccines for vulnerable populations," said Cueni.

Unused vaccines set to expire

Although the Swiss government pledged on June 30 to donate four million doses of the Astra Zeneca vaccine to Covax, to date none have been delivered, Cueni pointed out. A spokesperson for the Federal Office of Public Health told the SonntagsZeitung work was ongoing to implement the donation.

"Switzerland should intensify its cooperation with Covax and get even more involved," said epidemiologist Marcel Tanner, president of the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences.

Greater distributive justice was all the more urgent as millions of vaccine doses sitting unused in rich countries will soon expire, said Tanner, who added that these should be donated to countries in need without delay.

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