“It’s just shameful to blame us.” The Jura Minister of Health, Jacques Gerber, is in a bad mood Tuesday morning, following the controversy he considers unjust and futile on the Easter break that many cantons have observed. Indeed, Switzerland did not vaccinate much during this four-day weekend. Geneva kept two centers open out of seven, Jura none, Berne two out of nine, Vaud between zero and six (out of six) depending on the day, the centers in Valais, which are only open one day a week, functioned as as usual and health care providers received doses on Friday, but not on Monday. However, Switzerland received last Wednesday its largest vaccine delivery since the start of the year, more than 400,000 doses.
Why this look of a senator, when we are in a race against time and the experts repeat that it is necessary to vaccinate at all costs? Not to mention that financially, we lose between 50 and 100 million francs of gross domestic product (GDP) every day. Are the cantons dragging their feet? “Not at all,” replies Laurent Paoliello, spokesperson for the Department of Health in Geneva. We were told of a delivery last week, without specifying when, it arrived on March 31. How do you want to set up appointments the day before a bank holiday weekend? ” Same story in the Jura: “We receive the delivery confirmation less than a week before the arrival of the doses,” explains Jacques Gerber. It’s a planning puzzle. ”
“A Formula 1 device for a soap box”
To hear the cantons, the problem is not their fault, but must be attributed to the lack of vaccines available, whose deliveries are irregular or delayed. Nothing like a metaphor to justify it: “The Geneva system is sized for a Formula 1, and we receive doses for a soap box”, summarizes Laurent Paoliello. When called upon, the Federal Office of Public Health (OFSP) does not really dispel the doubt: “The speed with which the different target groups can be vaccinated depends on their willingness to lend themselves to it and the vaccination capacities of the cantons. In the second quarter, Switzerland expects a significant volume of vaccines. ”
According to figures from the FOPH, before the end of March, Switzerland had received 2.2 million doses. To these will probably be added 8.1 million doses delivered by Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna between April and the end of July 2021, including 3 million in May 2021 and 3 million in June 2021. In addition, Switzerland is still waiting for more. authorizations for AstraZeneca, CureVac and Novavax vaccines.
“We must smooth out the vaccinations”
Anyway, the reproach of lack of planning annoys the cantons, given the many uncertainties they have to face: “It takes a few days to find the staff, and we have to keep them occupied continuously,” explains Jacques Gerber. . We must therefore smooth the vaccinations to be able to last a week at the same pace rather than having peaks of activity followed by slack periods. In addition, the second dose must be guaranteed. ” For now, the Jura has only one center equipped with six vaccination lines, two of which are currently operating.
Last Tuesday, the township tested the entire device by making 600 injections per day, instead of 150 currently, just to see if it holds up. In Geneva too, it is explained that the work is only profitable if we can immunize in the assembly line. To avoid waste, the doses remaining at the end of the day – those from unfulfilled appointments, for example – are administered to those who wish. In Valais, the centers adapt the opening hours according to planned deliveries and not to demand. “Because a significant number of people are on the waiting list due to the low number of doses received in recent weeks,” said the Valais public health service.
On the other hand, there were still a few places available in the canton of Vaud this holiday weekend, the supply was therefore slightly higher than the demand, according to the Department of Health. But planning remains a headache: “The delivery dates and volumes have changed enormously, sometimes with significant differences between what was initially announced and what was finally delivered (sometimes less than 30% of doses), explains Sonia Arnal. , communications officer. We have been in the habit since the start of the vaccination campaign to recalculate our planning to adapt it to the actual deliveries – at least twice a week, often more. “
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The cantons are counting on six days a week
Switzerland is therefore still far from being able to vaccinate seven days a week, like other countries. But the cantons swear they would be able to do it if the vials weren’t a scarce commodity. To be realistic, they are already planning to go up to six days a week. A promise based on the hope of more substantial deliveries soon.
In mid-April, Geneva will open a center at Palexpo, which will double or even triple the capacity. If sufficient doses reach the end of Lake Geneva, the center will open Saturdays and extend its hours. The Jura has also planned to vaccinate six days a week. Like the Valais, which also promises to open additional centers, as well as to offer vaccination in pharmacies from the first half of May. In the canton of Vaud, new vaccination sites will be opened, some with extended hours in the evening and more offers on Saturdays. The township also promises not to be unemployed during the two long weekends in May. It ensures that these infrastructures are capable of ultimately vaccinating 10,000 to 12,000 people per day, or even more.
“Stop saying things that we will not be able to hold!”
Will these prospects be such as to guarantee the objective of Confederation? One scenario provides that if 75% of vulnerable people and 60% of the rest of the adult population are willing to be vaccinated, all will have received at least one dose by the end of June 2021.
Realistic? The cantons oscillate between moderate hope and reasonable skepticism. Geneva, for example, estimates that by the end of June, half of the canton’s population will have received a first dose. Valais is counting on an effective vaccination of all those who wish (estimate: 65% of the population) by mid-August, a term calculated according to the arrivals announced and which could be shortened if deliveries accelerate. The Jura minister, himself a fan of outspokenness, refuses to bottle Paris with “ifs”: “I’m afraid we won’t succeed!” The all-out communication about volumes and deadlines creates false hopes and many disappointments. Let us stop saying things that we will not be able to hold! ” He would probably love to be wrong.