Do you have any questions about Covid-19 vaccination? Here you can find out why you should be vaccinated, how the vaccination works, how long the vaccination protection lasts, which side effects can occur in rare cases and which vaccines are already in use.

Who should vaccinate when, where, why and how often

Why should I get vaccinated?

A vaccination against Covid-19 will help protect you and contain the pandemic. The virus is very contagious. Some of those infected suffer from a severe course of the disease. People aged 65 and over, pregnant women and adults with previous illnesses are particularly at risk. In addition to the rules of conduct and hygiene, vaccination is the most effective means to date to reduce the number of serious illnesses and deaths in Switzerland. Only when around ninety per cent of the population are immune will the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 be reduced to such an extent that this pandemic will pass.

Do I have to get vaccinated?

Vaccination is not compulsory in Switzerland. However, we recommend getting vaccinated. Vaccination offers good individual protection and helps contain the pandemic.

When and where can I get vaccinated?

The authorities in your canton can tell you when and where you can get vaccinated. 

What does the vaccination cost?

For people under the age of 80, the booster vaccination is currently still subject to a charge and costs CHF 60.00.

When am I fully vaccinated?

You are deemed to be fully vaccinated in the following cases:

1. You have received two doses of the following vaccines:

  • Comirnaty® from Pfizer/BioNTech
  • Spikevax® from Moderna
  • Vaxzevria® from AstraZeneca and other licensed products
  • SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine from Sinopharm
  • CoronaVac from Sinovac
  • COVAXIN®

2. You have received one dose of the Janssen vaccine from Johnson & Johnson

3. You have had a confirmed coronavirus infection and have received one dose of a vaccine specified in point 1 at an interval of at least 4 weeks (regardless of the order).

4. You have received a combination of the following vaccines:

  • Comirnaty® from Pfizer/BioNTech and Spikevax® from Moderna
  • Vaxzevria® from AstraZeneca and Comirnaty® from Pfizer/BioNTech
  • Vaxzevria® from AstraZeneca and Spikevax® from Moderna

Note: No time needs to elapse after the last scheduled dose of vaccine before you are deemed to be fully vaccinated – even though, from a medical point of view, the expected immune protection develops after around 1 to 2 weeks. With the exception of the Janssen viral vector vaccine. With Janssen you are fully vaccinated 22 days after the injection.

Who shouldn't get vaccinated?

The following people should not be vaccinated with the approved Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines: People with a severe confirmed allergy to any component of the vaccine (especially PEG in the mRNA vaccines).

If you are not allowed to receive mRNA vaccines for medical reasons, you can at best be vaccinated with the Janssen vector vaccine in consultation with your doctor. There are very few situations in which Covid 19 vaccination is not possible. In these cases, a doctor can issue a certificate confirming that (full) vaccination is not possible for medical reasons.

Should I get vaccinated when I am pregnant?

Vaccination with the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna is recommended for all pregnant women after the 1st trimester (from 12 weeks of pregnancy) according to the adjusted vaccination recommendation of the EKIF of 14.09.2021. In principle, however, it is also possible earlier in the pregnancy. The recommended vaccination schedule with mRNA vaccines does not differ from that of the normal population. The Janssen vaccine from Johnson & Johnson is not recommended for pregnant women.

Vaccination protection

Is the vaccination effective and safe?

Every vaccine needs approval and a recommendation in Switzerland. To do this, it must meet high standards for safety, effectiveness and quality. The Swiss Agency for Therapeutic Products, Swissmedic, carefully examined and approved the vaccine against Covid-19. It is safe and it works. Tens of thousands of people have already received the vaccine in medical studies. It is also safe and effective for the elderly and those with chronic diseases. Swissmedic continues to monitor the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine. In general: The risk of serious side effects after vaccination is much smaller than the risk of serious disease progression after infection with the coronavirus.

How does vaccination protect?

Your body builds up protection against Covid-19. The vaccination strengthens your defences and helps your body fight the virus. The vaccination significantly reduces the risk of Covid-19. However, there is no complete protection. Some people can get Covid-19 despite the vaccination. With the vaccination, however, there is a higher chance that they will not get seriously ill.

How long will it take to be protected after vaccination?

Protection begins about two weeks after the first dose and is complete one week after the second dose - 14 days after the first vaccination in the case of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, as only a single dose is administered here.

How long does the vaccination last?

Current data show that protection from getting the disease lasts for at least 12 months. It may be that after a certain period of time another vaccination has to be given.

What side effects can the Covid vaccination cause?

A distinction must be made here between harmless, temporary vaccination reactions and real serious side effects. Vaccine reactions are common and go away within a few days. Possible vaccine reactions are pain at the area of injection, tiredness, headache or body aches or high temperature. They show that the body is building up the vaccine protection and are therefore a good sign in mild form. Very rarely are there serious side effects such as a severe allergic reaction right after vaccination. An allergic reaction may cause swelling, redness, itching, or difficulty breathing. If you experience such symptoms, contact your doctor immediately.

How long can side effects last?

The side effects usually go away after a few days. If after a week you still have any side effects or they get worse, speak with your doctor.

How long after the vaccination can side effects occur?

Generally, side effects can be expected in the first six months after vaccination. However, most side effects occur shortly after vaccination. They are usually mild and of short duration. Similar to other vaccinations, these are mostly reactions at the injection site (especially pain or also redness, swelling) or general symptoms (e.g. tiredness, headache, muscle and joint pain, fever). Contact your doctor if side effects last longer, get worse or if your well-being changes in the weeks after the vaccination.

Vaccines

What types of vaccines are available?

So far, the federal government has signed contracts with the vaccine manufacturers Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Novavax and Curevac. The Comirnaty® vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech received approval from Swissmedic on 19 December 2020. Moderna's vaccine (COVID-19 mRNA Vaccine Moderna) was approved by Swissmedic on 12 January 2021. The Covid-19 vaccine “COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen” from Johnson & Johnson was approved on 22 March 2021.

What vaccines are used in the vaccination centres?

The vaccines "Comirnaty" (from Pfizer) and "Spikevax" (from Moderna; both mRNA vaccines) are currently being vaccinated in the vaccination centres, as well as the vector vaccine Janssen from Johnson & Johnson. In addition to Pfizer/BioNTech's Comirnaty vaccine, Moderna's Spikevax vaccine is also licensed by Swissmedic for adolescents aged 12 and over. Only one dose of Janssen needs to be administered. It is not recommended for people with immunodeficiency and pregnant women. Vaccination protection is given three weeks after vaccination. Accordingly, the certificate is valid on the 22nd day after vaccination. Note: The mRNA vaccines offer the higher vaccination protection.

Can the vaccine be freely chosen?

For mRNA vaccines, you cannot always choose between Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines. Both are equivalent in terms of efficacy and safety. They are therefore offered to the same target groups. The decisive factor in deciding which mRNA vaccine you receive is above all the availability at the vaccination site.

Exceptions:

  • For basic immunisation, persons under 30 years of age are preferably recommended the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
  • For booster vaccination, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is the preferred choice for persons aged 18 to 29 years.
  • For booster vaccination, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is recommended for people aged 12 to 17 years.

You cannot be vaccinated with an mRNA vaccine for medical reasons (e.g. because of a severe allergy to an ingredient)? Or you refuse mRNA vaccine? Then you can receive the vector vaccine from Janssen or the protein vaccine from Novavax if you are over 18 years old and not pregnant or breastfeeding.

How do Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna vaccines work?

Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna's mRNA vaccine contains genetic information of the novel coronavirus. From this tiny piece of blueprint, the body creates a small part of the virus - the so-called spike protein. The immune system recognises this as foreign and forms antibodies against it. The immune response has started. Both the mRNA blueprint and the spikes are broken down within days. This active immunisation prevents the SARS-CoV-2 viruses from penetrating human cells and multiplying.

This video from Swissmedic explains how the mRNA vaccine works.

How does the vaccine from Johnson & Johnson work?

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is based on an adenovirus (harmless human cold virus), which contains the blueprint for the spike proteins of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and introduces it into the body. This blueprint enables the body’s own cells to produce the protein that is unique to the COVID-19 virus. The human immune system recognises that this protein is foreign and reacts by establishing natural defences against a COVID-19 infection. The adenovirus in the vaccine cannot multiply and does not cause illness.

The video from Swissmedic explains how the viral vector vaccine works.

What are the differences between the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna?

Both preparations show high efficacy. The vaccine developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna offers around 95 per cent protection against severe disease progression by Covid-19.

What is new about the vaccine from Johnson & Johnson?

The “COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen” from Johnson & Johnson is a viral vector vaccine and is administered just once (single dose). The data shows an efficacy of between 64.2% (age group 18 to 64) and 82.4% (aged 65 and over) in all investigated age groups 14 days after the vaccine. The vaccine can be stored frozen at -25°C to -15°C and transported chilled or thawed at 2°C to 8°C. Once removed from the freezer, the unopened vaccine can be stored in a refrigerator for up to 3 months.

Can the new mRNA vaccine change my genetic material (DNA / genes)?

The mRNA vaccine is not transported into the cell nucleus and cannot affect the human genome. The vaccine contains mRNA, which codes for the formation of a specific protein that forms the spike-like projections (spikes) on the SARS-CoV-2 virus wall. This protein serves as an antigen, is recognised by the body as foreign and thus stimulates the body's own immune system to react against the spikes of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Antibodies are formed which are responsible for protecting against the virus.