Ninety-year-old woman first in Switzerland to get COVID-19 shot

LUCERNE (Reuters) - A 90-year-old woman in the canton of Lucerne on Wednesday became the first person in Switzerland to be vaccinated against the new coronavirus, as the Swiss military distributed a first instalment of 107,000 COVID-19 shots around the country.

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Lucerne and the rural canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden were first among Switzerland’s 26 cantons to begin inoculations after regulators approved the vaccine from Pfizer and German partner BioNTech on Saturday.

Initial vaccine doses will go to cantons to inoculate vulnerable people, including those aged over 75 and people with medical conditions.

“Residents of nursing and care homes will be first to get vaccines,” Lucerne said on Wednesday, adding it hopes to have the general population vaccinated by late 2021.

While COVID-19 vaccines have been approved in record time, production lags demand, with shots seen in short supply for months as a second infection wave disrupts normal life.

The woman in Lucerne who received the shot lives in a care home. Her name was not released.

Switzerland’s decentralised system of government has left it up to its cantons to develop individual plans to vaccinate the nation of 8.6 million people, though the military is helping with logistics.

Zurich, the largest by population, expects to start vaccinations on Jan. 4.

Britain began vaccinating citizens early this month, and the United States has also given emergency approval to shots from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.

Switzerland, which has set aside 400 million Swiss francs ($450 million) to purchase vaccines, has a contract with Pfizer and BioNTech to eventually get 3 million doses, enough to give 1.5 million people two jabs three weeks apart with the booster seen helping boost efficacy above 90%.

The nation has ordered 15 million vaccine doses, in all, including from Moderna and AstraZeneca, whose vaccine is still under review.

($1 = 0.8895 Swiss francs)

Reporting by John Miller and Arnd Wiegmann; editing by Barbara Lewis