By: Sam Doak
April 14 2023
Switzerland has temporarily halted its recommendations due to high levels of existing protection. Vaccines remain available for at-risk individuals.
On April 7, the German outlet Report 24 ran a story entitled “Big bang: Switzerland withdraws all Covid vaccination recommendations.” The article draws on recent news from Switzerland, stating “Switzerland stops the Covid vaccinations: All vaccination recommendations have been withdrawn, doctors can only administer the controversial vaccines in individual cases under certain conditions - but then bear the risk of liability for vaccination damage.” Its author proceeded to ask, "When do countries like Germany and Austria follow this example?”
This article has been shared widely in the days since it was first published by those skeptical of the efficacy and safety of COVID-19 vaccines. Dr Robert Malone, a high-profile critic of public health responses to the pandemic, was among such figures, commenting “This is big news! “Switzerland stops the Covid vaccinations: All vaccination recommendations have been withdrawn.” Malone’s post has been viewed over 1.4 million times on Twitter, having been shared by more than 8,800 users.
It is clear that many social media users believe that developments in Switzerland are related to supposed dangers associated with vaccination. One tweet, which was shared over 2,600 times, predicts “Other nations will follow as they can’t hide the truth forever.”
Switzerland has not banned COVID-19 vaccines or otherwise mandated a complete halt to vaccination efforts. Much of the dialogue surrounding developments in Switzerland appears to stem from a misreading of the government’s guidance. Available in English, it reads, “In principle, no COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for spring/summer 2023. Nearly everyone in Switzerland has been vaccinated and/or contracted and recovered from COVID-19. Their immune system has therefore been exposed to the coronavirus. In spring/summer 2023, the virus will likely circulate less. The current virus variants also cause rather mild illness. For autumn 2023, the vaccination recommendation will be evaluated again and adjusted accordingly.”
From this guidance, it is clear that, while vaccination is not currently being recommended during spring and summer seasons, and this is not due to vaccine-related harms, as has been widely implied. Instead, public health authorities have decided that because of widespread protection and vaccination and the prevalence of milder variants such efforts are not necessary on a nationwide scale for some time. Crucially, this will have been informed in large part by the high number of Swiss residents who have gained protection through vaccination in the past. It is still possible to be vaccinated despite changes in policy, as the guidance states that high-risk individuals may obtain a dose after consultation with a doctor.
Crucially, the Swiss government’s decision not to recommend vaccination in the coming months is not a blanket ban or prohibition on future recommendations. The guidance makes it clear that the current policy is contingent on high levels of protection and current levels of prevalence and severity, stating, “if a wave of infection were to emerge in spring/summer 2023, the vaccination recommendation would be adjusted.”
While Switzerland is not recommending vaccinations during the spring and summer, this is in large part due to much of the population being protected by vaccination and previous infection. The government has committed itself to adjust its recommendations if infection levels change and there is no evidence that vaccine-related harms are a primary reason for its decision. This claim has therefore been marked as misleading.
The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a lot of potentially dangerous misinformation. For reliable advice on COVID-19, including symptoms, prevention, and available treatment, please refer to the World Health Organization or your national healthcare authority.