Switzerland authorises Covid-19 booster jabs for the vulnerable

The booster will be one shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, or a half dose of the Moderna vaccine. PHOTO: AFP

GENEVA (AFP) - Switzerland has authorised booster shots of Covid-19 vaccines for people aged above 65, as it urged those with no protection at all to get immunised.

The Swissmedic regulatory authority said on Tuesday (Oct 26) that the booster would be one shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, or a half dose of the Moderna vaccine.

"People at especially high risk can receive a booster dose of a vaccine in order to remain adequately protected against severe episodes of Covid-19," the agency said.

A third dose is already recommended for people with weakened immune systems. It can be given to immuno-compromised people after at least 28 days.

In turn, the Swiss Health Ministry said it now recommended a booster shot for everyone aged over 65, with the third dose roll-out to start in mid-November.

"Significantly higher immunisation coverage is necessary to ensure sufficient vaccination of the population, protect them against severe forms of the disease and prevent overloading the health system," it said.

Besides vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, Switzerland also authorises the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The wealthy European nation's vaccination rates slowed dramatically over the summer. The anti-vaccination and anti-Covid-19 restrictions movement regularly draws thousands of people to rallies.

Switzerland's overall strategy for managing the pandemic rests on three pillars: vaccinations, testing and non-pharmaceutical measures, according to the Federal Office of Public Health.

To prepare for a possible rise in the number of Covid-19 cases during the autumn and winter months, the government has outlined various measures, including rapid identification of new variants of concern, continuing the vaccination campaign, ensuring sufficient capacity for testing, and contact tracing.

Switzerland has administered 10,994,632 doses of vaccine, with 63 per cent of the population - or 5,450,816 - fully vaccinated.

As at Tuesday, the country has reported a cumulative total of 865,708 Covid-19 infections, with 12,198 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

To facilitate travel, the Swiss authorities recognise all the vaccines that have been approved by the European Medicines Agency as well as those that are part of World Health Organisation's Emergency Use Listing.

These include vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Sinovac, Sinopharm, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, among others.

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