Swiss give 4 mln AstraZeneca shots to COVAX, keep mRNA shots for domestic use

ZURICH, June 30 (Reuters) - Switzerland will give 4 million doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine that it has reserved to the vaccine-sharing programme COVAX, the government said on Wednesday, to help address a massive discrepancy in shots for the developing world.

Switzerland originally reserved 5.4 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, but the country’s medical regulator Swissmedic has yet to approve the shot, on grounds it has not received all necessary data from clinical trials.

The 4-million-dose donation exceeds the 3 million Switzerland had previously announced it was considering giving to COVAX.

“Through the unequal distribution of vaccines we can expect that the pandemic will continue for a long time to come,” the government said in a statement.

Switzerland has ordered significantly more mRNA vaccines from Moderna and from Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, including for 2022 when the country is preparing for the possibility that people will need a booster shot, either as immunity from the first round of shots wanes or as variants evade protection.

“The Swiss federal government is concentrating on mRNA vaccines,” it said. “These have proven themselves to be highly effective and tolerable.”

In addition to the AstraZeneca shot donation, Switzerland has also given 145 million Swiss francs ($157 million) to COVAX, part of more than 300 million francs it has directed to support the World Health Organization (WHO)-backed Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) aimed at speeding development of pandemic-fighting technologies. ($1 = 0.9235 Swiss francs) (Reporting by John Miller; Editing by Michael Shields)