Another delay in the delivery of vaccines arouses the anger of the cantons

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The vaccination campaign is definitely struggling to take off in Switzerland. Last Thursday, Federal Councilor Alain Berset urged the cantons to turn on the turbo, given the fact that manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna would deliver no less than eight million doses by the end of June. Friday evening, however, a setback threw a veil on this beautiful optimism. Following a packaging problem at Lonza in Visp, the 350,000 doses promised for this week could not be delivered. Only 70,000 doses reached the Federal Office of Public Health (OFSP). In principle, the remaining 280,000 should be delivered at the end of next week.

Will the Swiss be able to go on vacation if all those who want to are vaccinated in July? “I think so,” said the Bund this Saturday Christoph Berger, president of the Federal Commission for vaccination. Not so sure ! After the last breakdown on Friday at Lonza, the townships are very angry. “The ideal would have been to be ready for the holidays, but I’m afraid that goal may not be achieved. In any case, we cannot work in these conditions, ”says Genevan health minister Mauro Poggia.

At the FOPH, we play down this incident, which he says is not so important: “In principle, deliveries arrive regularly, so that the cantons still have hundreds of thousands of doses in reserve. It is up to them to use them as quickly as possible ”.

Cantons under pressure

Easy to say, but on the ground, the situation is more complicated. This Monday, April 19, the canton of Geneva must open its new vaccination center at Palexpo, which must be able to inject 3,000 doses per day. But while the 250 people who provide stewardship and nursing staff are in the starting blocks, the delay in delivery is forcing the canton to slow down instead of boosting. To ensure a smooth campaign, Geneva had opened up vaccination to the 45-54 age group. “We wanted to avoid having the vaccines without the clients. Today, we risk having clients without vaccines, ”says Mauro Poggia.

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The cantons are under pressure. In these times of pandemic, the criteria for comparing them have completely changed. They are no longer measured in terms of GDP or tax burden, but in the conduct of their vaccination campaign. And nothing is easy about it, because they find themselves between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, a population that impatiently waits to be vaccinated, on the other, suppliers who do not always keep their promises.

In Bern, the director of health Pierre Alain Schnegg is just as furious as his Geneva counterpart. Being in the Swiss average in terms of vaccination rate, this canton started the campaign cautiously, taking care to keep a second dose before opening vaccination to new categories of people. He is preparing to open a tenth center in Bernexpo, so as to be able to offer 8,000 doses per day. But instead of receiving 50,000 doses this weekend, he only received 7,000. A hazard that will force him to review his planning from April 26.

Credibility of the campaign at risk

Pierre Alain Schnegg blames the Confederation and the FOPH. “It’s dramatic, but these departments have no skills in supply chain management and supplier management. They should keep abreast of any delays at the manufacturers hour by hour ”. The Councilor of State asks that the Federal Council withdraw this file from the FOPH and entrust it to the private sector.

Mauro Poggia is more cautious in his criticisms of the Confederation, refusing to nail the messenger of bad news – the FOPH – to the pillory. However, he denounces the lack of transparency of Moderna and its subsidiary Lonza in the delivery of its products. “Either this company is incompetent because it cannot plan the quantities supplied, or it delivers its products to other countries better able to pay the high price,” he protested.

The problem, at the end of the day, is the credibility of the authorities in this vaccination campaign. “This jeopardizes the confidence of the population,” still laments Pierre Alain Schnegg.

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