«Not just for over 65s, the booster vaccination is recommended for everyone.»

PANDEMIC UPDATES

Currently the booster dose has been administered to 11 thousand people

« I believe the signal is quite clear on its own.» That’ s how Cantonal Physician Giorgio Merlani opened his statement at a press conference today, as he introduced the COVID-19 epidemiological situation. « The number of laboratory-confirmed cases, hospitalizations and deaths are going up. In Ticino, the occurrence is roughly half the Swiss average. This is not to say that we are doing well and do not have a problem, it is simply a matter of timing. Let’s not fall into the same old pitfalls, we have an advantage at the Swiss level but it should not be wasted, it should be exploited».

Once again, we see an increase in the percentage of positive coronavirus tests. An elevation that this year occurs with some delay compared to the same period last year. The number of hospitalizations is also rising in Ticino, with two types of patients: « On one hand we have patients with serious courses of the disease. And these are unvaccinated patients. Then there are vaccinated patients, who have less typical symptoms: they are mainly elderly people who were vaccinated at the beginning of the year. They don’t have serious cases, but they have mild ones.» This is why the booster vaccination is recommended.

«The vaccine is not made to avoid becoming ill, but to avoid severe cases and hospitalizations,« said Merlani.

As well, the doctor of the Canton points out that it is important to continue to comply with hygiene measures, even the vaccinated. «I have to admit that I myself switched to wearing a mask in the office over the summer. But now, we need to get back to good habits. We are no longer in the quiet, normal, ‘’blue’’ state of living in a semi-normal way. We must all get back to the basics: distance, hand hygiene, mask, testing.» The tests are free if there are symptoms, including mild ones. «Vaccinated people don’t have to take the rapid test if they have any symptoms, it’s better to undergo PCR right away.» Merlani also mentioned that «where there is no requirement for a mask does not mean it is not allowed. If you also wear it outside while window shopping, it’s not a bad thing.» The situation has changed, but at the moment it does not seem necessary to put in place other measures besides the current ones, which are effective.

The Canton increases the level of alert

The awareness campaign «Distant but close», following five months marked by the color blue, is back to the color orange: this signifies a phase of heightened alert, and aims to draw the attention of the population to personal protection measures (mask, hand hygiene, respect for distance in crowded places, testing at the slightest symptom, even for those vaccinated), and the significance of the decision to vaccinate.

Vaccine situation

«We will soon reach 500 thousand doses administered in Ticino,« cantonal pharmacist Giovan Maria Zanini . «A symbolic figure». 70.6% of the total population have received their first dose. Taking into account only those over 12, the rate is 78.5%. « As far as basic vaccination is concerned, we are happy with the trend in Ticino. We have between 100 and 200 new vaccinations every day since early October. We will soon reach 250,000 first doses.» Those undecided can still seek advice by phone on 0800.144.144, by email at [email protected] or by texting via WhatsApp on 079 219 79 96.

The booster dose

«In the last press conference we indicated that the booster dose was recommended for those over 65. The development of the pandemic in the elderly forces us to evolve: the booster dose is indicated for everyone.» So six months after the administration of the second dose, the booster is recommended for everyone.»

Boosters indicated for all, but it’s up to Bern to give the green light

«After six months, the amount of protection from serious consequences begins to drop.» The booster is only recommended by the federal government for people over 65. The cantons have been told that the over 75s come first and then the over 65s. First those vaccinated with Pfizer, then those vaccinated with Moderna. «This is the situation today - continues Zanini - We expect that the federal recommendations will be extended reasonably soon, especially to at-risk patients under 65 years of age, to all caregivers of at-risk patients and to health care personnel. Moreover, it seems to us that the recommendation for all has been around for a few days. On Tuesday, Swissmedic gave approval for the Pfizer vaccine by extending the ability to administer the booster to everyone. This doesn’t mean it’s already recommended. All Swissmedic did was create the legal basis for recommending the booster to those over 16. It is now up to the federal government to determine whether to extend the booster recommendation to everyone if it is appropriate and makes sense from a public health perspective.»

Booster dose

In Ticino, administration of the booster began in homes for the elderly. Then it was extended to the over 75s and then to the over 65s. To date, about 11,000 booster doses have been administered. More than 30,000 appointments have already been scheduled. Up to the end of the year, approximately twelve thousand places are still available (4,600 Pfizer, 7,400 Moderna). The cantonal pharmacist points out that those who wish to receive the booster, «must sign up, they will not be invited automatically». In fact, the authorities are not even able to obtain a list of those vaccinated, due to privacy issues. The booster vaccination can be administered at the earliest six months after full vaccination. One does not have to wait until the COVID certificate has expired to enroll. Starting in early December, should the federal recommendations be expanded, the booster will be extended to health care workers, at-risk patients under age 65 and their caregivers. In addition, the booster may also be administered at some physician offices and pharmacies.

Journalists’ questions

In Ticino currently half of the hospitalized patients (56) are vaccinated and half are not vaccinated. This was clarified by Dr. Merlani in answering a journalist’s question. «We are curious to know how this will evolve with the administration of the booster doses.» As for solidarity between cantons on whether patients can be accommodated in hospitals, vaccinated or not, coming from cantons with stricter or less stringent restrictions, «I don’t think anyone will ever be turned down, should the need arise,« added the cantonal doctor. «Every day we have about 1,000 new people signing up, and we are very confident that people will follow through and we will fill the appointments we have set up well,« explained Zanini.

As for the risk of wasting doses, he added a clarification: « In comparison to the months at the beginning of the year, this concern is no longer there today. I’m not suggesting it’s OK to waste them, but we have them readily available today. When we launched the vaccination week it was said at the Swiss level ‘’every dose counts, so open the vial even for one person’’. We have organized the centers in Ticino to avoid wasting doses. For example, we have decided that health personnel working in vaccination centers can vaccinate with the booster dose (if the six months have passed), so as not to throw them away». Given the increase in COVID hospitalizations, on the hypothetical «threshold dose» of hospitals, Merlani concluded: «If cases and hospitalizations still increase, we may return to a situation in which less serious interventions are postponed. Let’s not expect there to be some sort of endlessly inflating balloon in hospitals. Facilities will have to do their own assessments as well. And who will pay, in that case, will be all of us’’.

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