GENEVA, Switzerland

Swiss regulators said Saturday they have authorized the vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech for COVID-19, the world’s first approval for ordinary and not emergency usage.

The Swiss Federal Office of Public Health said vaccinations will be distributed free of charge and are set to start in a few days for vulnerable groups and will expand on Jan. 4.

The vaccine has already been approved for emergency use in Britain, Canada, and the US.

“The safety of patients is an essential prerequisite, especially where the authorization of vaccines is concerned,” Swissmedic director Raimund Bruhin, who heads the government regulator, said in a press release.

“Thanks to the rolling procedure and our flexibly organized teams, we nevertheless managed to reach a decision quickly – while also fully satisfying the three most important requirements of safety, efficacy, and quality.”

Swissmedic said it meticulously reviewed the available information and concluded that “the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech is safe and that its benefit outweighs the risks.”

2 injections

The announcement came the day after Swiss federal authorities said that restaurants and bars must be closed for a month from Tuesday to help curb the virus’ spread but said ski areas could remain open.

There were 4,478 new COVID-19 infections and 120 deaths on Friday, bringing the total fatalities to over 6,000, health authorities announced.

There have been more than 400,000 infections since the pandemic in the country of some 8.6 million people.

Anyone age 16 and up is allowed to get vaccinated against the novel coronavirus.

For optimum protection, Swiss medic suggests two intramuscular injections of the vaccine, spaced at least 21 days apart.

“According to the data assessed by the Swiss Agency for Therapeutic Products, the level of protection afforded seven days after the second injection of the vaccine is over 90%,” said the statement.

“This represents the world’s first authorization in the ordinary procedure.”

The federal government has signed contracts for just over 15 million doses of the vaccine.

Besides the 3 million doses from Pfizer/BioNTech, this includes an additional 4.5 million doses from Moderna and up to 5.3 million doses from AstraZeneca.

The vaccines from Moderna and AstraZeneca are still undergoing the approval process at Swissmedic.

“In addition, Switzerland is taking part in the international COVAX Initiative to give economically weaker countries access to vaccines,” said the health department. 

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