ZURICH (Reuters) – Switzerland has tasked its defense ministry with securing enough COVID-19 vaccine, the government said on Wednesday, amid growing fears that some countries could be left short of supplies when the medicine is eventually produced.
The government in Bern also allocated an extra 14.2 billion Swiss francs ($14.70 billion) to help pay for programs for workers who have lost their jobs or are working shorter hours during the growing economic crisis caused by the pandemic.
Hopes for an end to the crisis rest with the development of a vaccine, with dozens of research projects underway worldwide. So far, no vaccine has so far been created to protect people from the new coronavirus.
Concerns are growing that some nations including the United States could seek to hoard a successful candidate, once it comes, since manufacturing capacity is unlikely to be sufficient to supply global needs. Even after the first wave of the pandemic is over, immunity levels around the world will be so low that vaccine will be essential, the Swiss government said, potentially sparking a race by nations to grab what they can, to the detriment of others.
“The goal is clear: The Swiss population should have the fastest possible access to a safe, effective vaccine,” Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset said. “But we also know there’s a big, global discussion going on, and need will be huge worldwide. All countries should have fair access to a vaccine.”
Switzerland’s interior ministry and defence department have been tasked with leading contract negotiations to secure enough doses to treat the nation’s 8.6 million population, the government said, estimating costs at around 300 million Swiss francs ($310.82 million) for such a supply.
(Reporting by John Miller and Brenna Hughes-Neghaiwi, editing by John Revill)