Swiss authorise Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine

GENEVA (AFP) -The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been authorised for use in Switzerland, regulators announced yesterday, with immunisation set to start within days as the country battles rising coronavirus cases and deaths.

The Swissmedic regulatory authority said it had given the green light following a two-month rolling review. It is the first COVID-19 vaccine approved in the wealthy Alpine nation, with rivals being assessed.

“After a meticulous review of the available information, Swissmedic concluded that the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech is safe and that its benefit outweighs the risks,” the body said in a statement.

Health Minister Alain Berset said: “We can start vaccinating in the coming days.

“Those who are particularly vulnerable will have priority,” he said in a video tweet, namely
the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions.

The vaccine, produced by United States (US) pharmaceuticals giant Pfizer and German biotechnology company BioNTech, was based on a new technology that uses genetic material in the form of messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA).

“The data available to date showed a comparable high level of efficacy in all investigated
age groups, thus meeting the safety requirements,” said Swissmedic.

“The level of protection afforded seven days after the second injection is over 90 per cent in adults,” according to the study data it reviewed.

Swissmedic said it would monitor the safety of the vaccine closely as it is rolled out, but found that the most frequently documented side effects in the authorisation studies were “comparable with those after a flu vaccination”.

Berset said the vaccine was not mandatory but was “strongly recommended” – and free of charge.

However, he added that the jab “won’t solve all our problems”, with COVID-19 cases and deaths still rising fast.

The vaccine announcement came a day after the Swiss government announced on Friday that restaurants would once again be closed across the country.

“The number of infections is very high and is continuing to rise. Hospitals and healthcare workers have been under extreme pressure for weeks and the festive period increases the risk of an even more rapid rise in cases,” it explained.