By John Miller
ZURICH (Reuters) -Switzerland aims to expand its economic re-opening and may donate millions of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses to developing countries as the Alpine nation grows increasingly confident it is beating back the pandemic.
Health Minister Alain Berset on Wednesday said the country may give 3 million of 5.4 million AstraZeneca doses it has reserved to the COVAX vaccine sharing programme. Switzerland has enough mRNA shots from producers including Pfizer and Moderna to cover 2021 and 2022, Berset said.
The government announced plans starting May 31 to re-open indoor dining in restaurants, increase attendance at public events and ease work-from-home requirements as infections, hospitalisations and deaths have fallen.
A final decision is due on May 26.
AstraZeneca’s shot, restricted in some countries or limited to certain age groups after links to very rare blood clots, has yet to be approved in Switzerland as the Swiss regulator seeks more data.
“If it is approved, then only a limited number would be deployed in Switzerland,” Berset told a news conference in Bern.
“We looked at it today, and the Interior Ministry has been tasked with making necessary inquiries about how we would donate 3 million doses available to COVAX.”
So far, Switzerland has ordered more than 40 million vaccine doses, including 13.5 million in 2021 and 7 million in 2022 from Moderna, 6 million from Pfizer and its German partner BionTech, 5 million from CureVac and 6 million from Novavax.
Berset said mRNA vaccines — from Moderna and Pfizer, as well as CureVac’s yet-to-be-approved shot — form the backbone of Switzerland’s strategy for initial shots and future refresher jabs, seen as likely as the coronavirus mutates.
Berset said people should continue to stick to social distancing, mask wearing, and getting COVID-19 vaccines. About a quarter of the 8.6 million population has got jabs so far.
(Reporting by John Miller, editing by John Revill and Michael Shields)