ZURICH (Reuters) – Switzerland has reserved 16 million doses of potential COVID-19 vaccines, the government said on Wednesday, announcing a new 3.2 million-dose reservation with a World Health Organization-led programme and a tentative 3 million-dose pact with Pfizer <PFE.N> and BioNTech <22UAy.DE>.
Switzerland, which has 8.6 million people and hopes to start vaccinating some time in the first half of 2021, had previously reserved nearly 10 million doses of prospective vaccines from Moderna <MRNA.O> and AstraZeneca <AZN.L> and has now set aside 400 million Swiss francs ($435.92 million) for purchases.
Pfizer and BioNTech said on Monday their COVID-19 vaccine was more than 90% effective based on initial trial results, prompting governments to rush to secure a share. Data from separate trials of Moderna’s and AstraZeneca’s candidates are due later this year.
A Russian vaccine project on Wednesday also said that its candidate’s efficacy topped 90% in a small sampling of trial participants.
Global health officials estimate about 60-70% of the population must be inoculated against the new coronavirus to get the pandemic under control. While the figure is four times the number of Swiss who get an annual flu shot, Health Minister Alain Berset said the situations aren’t comparable, citing polls he said show “a large percentage of the population is ready to get a shot”.
“We’re confronted with a worldwide pandemic that has inflicted massive damage on the economy and society,” Berset said at a news conference. “The situation in which we’re living in today isn’t what we want.”
Swiss coronavirus infections rose by 8,270 cases on Wednesday, with confirmed cases in Switzerland and neighbouring principality Liechtenstein increasing to 243,472 and the death toll rising by 86 to 2,769, as some hospitals report their intensive care units are full.
Switzerland will not require vaccinations but plans a campaign to promote them.
(Reporting by John Miller and Silke Koltrowitz; editing by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi)