Last updated on 10.10.2022

How does the vaccination work?

The vaccine enables the body to build immune defence specifically targeted at the virus. As soon as the body has been exposed to the virus, it has the immune defence to fight it. Vaccination therefore boosts and teaches our immune systems specifically how to fight COVID-19.

For your booster, you should ideally have a variant-adapted (bivalent) mRNA vaccine or the protein vaccine from Novavax if these are available (see further below for exceptions for certain groups). The type of vaccine you had in the past has no impact on the choice of vaccine you receive for your booster.

Which vaccines are used in Switzerland?

mRNA vaccines

Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine (Comirnaty)

  • Name of vaccine: Comirnaty®
  • Approved: 19 December 2020
  • Origin of manufacturer: United States and Germany
  • Approved for age: 5 and over
  • Vaccine doses reserved: 6 million doses for 2021; 7 million for 2022; 7 million for 2023

Moderna vaccine (Spikevax)

  • Name of vaccine: Spikevax®
  • Approved: 12 January 2021
  • Bivalent vaccine approved: 26 August 2022
  • Origin of manufacturer: United States
  • Approved for age: 6 and over
  • Vaccine doses reserved: 13.5 million doses for 2021; 7 million for 2022

Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna 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:

Protein Vaccines

Novavax vaccine (Nuvaxovid® / NVX-CoV2373)

  • Vaccine name: Nuvaxovid®
  • Approval: 13 April 2022
  • Origin of manufacturer: United States
  • Approved for age: 18 and over
  • Vaccine doses reserved: 6 million doses

Novavax has opted for an established technology, the protein vaccine. The safety and efficacy of many protein vaccines are very well researched and have been proven over many years of practical use. Protein vaccines are already used against diseases such as hepatitis, whooping cough, shingles and influenza.
Protein vaccines involve inoculation with selected, harmless proteins of a pathogen. In the case of Novavax, part of the coronavirus’s so-called spike protein is used. The vaccine also contains a so-called adjuvant to boost its efficacy and ensure the immune system is sufficiently stimulated. The immune system is given information on how to identify the pathogen. This immune response prepares the body to fight the virus.

Watch the Swissmedic video to find out how protein-based vaccines such as the one from Novavax work.

Viral vector vaccines

Janssen vaccine

  • Name of vaccine: COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen®
  • Approved: 22 March 2021
  • Origin of manufacturer: Germany
  • Approved for age: 18 and over
  • Vaccine doses reserved: 150,000 doses in October 2021

The vaccine from Janssen is a viral vector 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.

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: