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Swiss expect approval of Covid-19 booster by end of October

Published on October 19, 2021

Switzerland’s medical regulator has said it expects to give the green light for the third Covid-19 jab in a matter of weeks. This comes amid growing concerns about a rising number of infections and deaths among vaccinated individuals.

In an interview on Swiss public television, SRF, on Monday, Swissmedic’s head of regulatory affairs Claus Bolte indicated that the agency is still investigating the need for a third, or so-called booster, shot. In particular, the question of who should receive them and when they should be administered still needed to be addressed.

Bolte said that approval is possible in a matter of weeks “if the relevant companies cooperate”. The exact timing depends on how long it takes for companies to “answer our questions in such a way that we can also extend the approval”. Up to now the agency has hesitated to give a concrete timeframe for approval of boosters.

Various experts reacted to the announcement, including Rudolf Hauri, president of the Association of Swiss Cantonal Physicians, who told the German-language paper Tages-Anzeiger that while he hopes a third shot will be approved soon, authorities should not be put under pressure to do so quickly. They should “decide only on the basis of the available data and facts”.

Christoph Berger, president of the Federal Commission for Vaccinations, weighed in, telling the Swiss daily Blick that the general population “certainly doesn’t need a booster this year” as there is no indication that protection from mRNA vaccines is waning for this group. He had previously predicted booster approval by the end of the year.

Breakthrough rate

Some countries such as the United States, Israel and several European countries have already started administering booster shots among the general population.

The news comes amid a rising number of so-called “breakthrough” infections and deaths of vaccinated individuals.

The Federal Office of Public Health has reported that the breakthrough rate is three times higher for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine than that of Moderna. The former was, however, the first to be administered in Switzerland at the end of 2020.

Some 40 people fully vaccinated with Pfizer and 12 people vaccinated with Moderna have died in Switzerland since September 1. In the same period, 144 unvaccinated people died of Covid-19.

Overall, more than 10,000 people have died in Switzerland in connection with Covid.19.

One less vaccine

On Tuesday, Swissmedic announced that German biotech company CureVac had withdrawn its application for approval of its Covid-19 vaccine candidate. This comes after the company said it was abandoning development of its first generation vaccine candidate. Early results had shown efficacy levels of less than 50%, which is much lower than the Pfizer/BioNtech and Moderna vaccines.

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