6. FAQ on vaccination against COVID-19
Vaccination helps to protect yourself and to protect other people.
While a coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) infection is most often a less severe form of COVID-19 for adults and children, the illness is more often worse for vulnerable people (ie. elderly people or people with an underlying health condition such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular or pulmonary disease, cancer, immunosuppressive diseases and the treatment of them).
COVID-19 can cause severe complications and consequences, requiring long-term hospitalisation and, in some cases, the need for intensive care. COVID-19 can also be fatal. This is why it is therefore important to get vaccinated.
The Federal Office of Public Health, the Federal Commission for Vaccinations, cantonal doctors, the Swiss societies of doctors and specialists recommend vaccination.
Switzerland has chosen to use the vaccines created by two enterprises, Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, to vaccinate its population.
Studies that have been carried out on these vaccines show that they are the most effective.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was approved by Swissmedic on 19th December 2020. This vaccine contains a part of the genetic segment of the coronavirus called “messenger RNA” or “mRNA”. The RNA code is found in tiny droplets of fat. The messenger RNA instructs cells to create a harmless piece of protein, which resembles the outside layer of the coronavirus. When the immune system encounters this protein piece, it recognizes that it does not belong there, and therefore creates the antibodies to fight it. Through this process, our immune system is then prepared in case of infection and our bodies will be able to rapidly eliminate any coronavirus encountered. The messenger RNA injected with the vaccine is broken down and disappears completely after 1 – 2 days.
Many studies have been carried out to test the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines. These studies were carried out in accordance with international standards. They have taken place in many different countries and thousands of people agreed to participate in this research.
These studies have shown:
- Verification that the vaccines aren’t dangerous for our health (safety)
- Evidence that the vaccines protect us from the COVID-19 illness (effectiveness): For each 100 persons vaccinated with two doses, 95 of them avoided any infection when exposed to the virus. The 5 people who were infected only developed a mild form of the illness.
Based on these studies, Swissmedic approved of these vaccines. To be most effective two doses of the vaccine are necessary with an interval of one month between each dose.
The vaccines cannot cause COVID-19. Like most vaccines, these new ones can have mild side-effects. Such effects can appear on the day of vaccination or the day after. A few examples of some these are:
- Slight discomfort around the area of injection
- Other mild forms of inflammatory reactions caused by the activation of the immune system.
These reactions are normal and not dangerous. They may last between 1 and 3 days. They can be treated with paracetamol and do not need medical care.
Serious side effects, such as an allergic reaction in response to the vaccine, are rare. These reactions are also easy to treat.
There are some people who would be advised to not receive a vaccination (in medical terms it is “contraindicated”):
- People who have had a previous serious allergic reaction to any vaccine or its composites;
- Pregnant women – there is not enough information at the moment concerning any side-effects on the pregnancy.
Other people who may have to wait before getting vaccinated include:
People who have had COVID-19 recently. It is recommended to wait three months after the start of any symptoms to get vaccinated. People who have an acute illness (fever, etc..).
Protection from COVID-19 starts two weeks after the first injection. Maximum protection is achieved one week after the second injection.
The full length of on-going protection is not yet known. It could be somewhere between a few months and a few years. The effectiveness of the vaccine will be more certain once it has been tested on populations that have not been included in phases two and three of the trials. A booster vaccine might be necessary after one, two, three, five or ten years.
Vaccinations against COVID-19 are free. The costs are covered by health insurance (with no excess chargeable), the cantons and the State. Vaccination is not subject to any deductible or part-payment.