Last updated on 10.06.2021

How does the vaccination work?

When the body is exposed to a virus, the immune system attacks it thereby preventing the person from becoming ill. The vaccine has the same effect on the immune system as the virus, but without causing the disease.

COVID-19 vaccines

Switzerland has so far concluded five agreements for procuring vaccines

Switzerland has signed various agreements with vaccine producers. If the vaccines are authorised by Swissmedic, Switzerland will receive the number of reserved vaccine doses stated in the respective agreement in 2021. The vaccine producers will then distribute them in stages over several months:

  • Pfizer/BioNTech: 6 million vaccine doses
  • Moderna: 13.5 million vaccine doses for 2021 and 7 million for 2022
  • Curevac: 5 million vaccine doses
  • AstraZeneca: 5.3 million vaccine doses
  • Novavax: 6 million vaccine doses

Switzerland thus has enough vaccine for the whole population. For 2022 sufficient vaccine is also being procured to be able to offer first-time vaccinations and any boosters.

At present the federal government is focusing in particular on mRNA vaccines to protect the Swiss population. These vaccines are proving to be highly effective and well tolerated. Given that the production and availability of vaccines are subject to such great uncertainty, the federal government continues to consider different vaccine technologies from different vaccine manufacturers. The federal government is still in negotiations with various vaccine manufacturers.

All vaccines are thoroughly checked by Swissmedic

In Switzerland, the therapeutic products agency Swissmedic is responsible for authorisation: it decides whether a vaccine should be authorised for the Swiss public. If Swissmedic is able to confirm the efficacy, safety and quality of a vaccine, it grants the marketing authorisation for Switzerland.

In an exceptional situation such as a pandemic, a vaccine still has to pass the usual checks despite the need for urgency. However, the review process can be greatly accelerated: Swissmedic uses the “rolling authorisation” procedure during the pandemic. “Rolling” refers to the fact that the data from the vaccine producers are submitted on an ongoing basis and then reviewed immediately by Swissmedic. But this doesn’t involve any compromises when it comes to safety, as the review criteria remain the same.

This video shows what is needed for a vaccine to be authorised in Switzerland:

How is the safety of vaccines monitored?

After a vaccine has been licensed, vaccinations can be carried out. To ensure the safety of the vaccine, the process is closely checked and monitored.
This video shows just how the vaccine is monitored:

Vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech (“Comirnaty”)

The German company BioNTech is developing and producing the COVID-19 vaccine together with the US pharmaceutical company Pfizer. Pfizer/BioNTech is delivering 6 million doses of vaccine to Switzerland in stages; the first vaccinations began in December 2020. Results of clinical trials have shown that this vaccine reduces the risk of contracting coronavirus by 95% in vaccinated individuals. Around 43,000 people took part in the trial.

Vaccine from Moderna (“COVID-19 Vaccine Moderna”)

Switzerland has secured 13.5 million doses of vaccine from the US manufacturer Moderna for 2021 and at least 7 million for 2022. In authorisation trials the vaccine achieved 94% efficacy with the vaccinated trial subjects. Around 30,000 subjects took part in the trial. The vaccine, which is manufactured in Switzerland, has been in use since January.

Vaccine from Curevac

The federal government has signed an agreement with German pharmaceuticals company Curevac and the Swedish government for the delivery of 5 million doses of vaccine to Switzerland, subject to Swissmedic approval. This is an mRNA vaccine.

Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and Curevac all rely on an innovative technology, though it is one that has been researched for over 10 years. mRNA is a type of messenger molecule that carries the blueprint for protein synthesis. mRNA provides the body’s cells with the information it needs to produce a virus protein. As soon as the protein is produced in the body, the immune system identifies it as a foreign object and therefore produces antibodies against the virus. The immune response prepares the body to fight the virus. This film explains how the mRNA vaccine works:

Vaccine from AstraZeneca (“Vaxzevria”)

The federal government has concluded an agreement with the British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca and the Swedish government for the delivery of up to 5.3 million vaccine doses. Swissmedic authorisation for AstraZeneca is still pending.

The vaccine from AstraZeneca is a vector-based vaccine (an adenovirus), which replicates parts of the envelope of the SARS-CoV-2 virus on a harmless virus. It thus prepares the immune system to defend itself from the coronavirus.