Criticism of vaccine procurement has turned: At the beginning of the pandemic it couldn’t be enough, now there is a risk of expensive excess.
The Federal Council wants to play it safe and is taking precautions. For the current year 2022 alone, the government wants to order around 33 million vaccine doses, and further batches could be added for 2023. In the summer of 2020, when it came to obtaining the long-awaited vaccine, those responsible were criticized, as was the case with the sluggish vaccination campaign in early 2021.
It seems that they no longer want to be exposed to these allegations. Even the Federal Council does not know how the virus will behave from autumn. But he is now stocking up on vaccine – and that costs money.
The Greens feel “quite unsupervised”
Today, the Federal Council around Finance Minister Ueli Maurer estimates the need for funds for the current year at CHF 830 million. In order to be able to afford the financing of around 33 million vaccine doses, a financial boost of 314 million Swiss francs is needed afterwards, originally estimated at 516 million Swiss francs. In addition, there is another commitment credit of 780 million francs to secure enough vaccines for 2023.
The National Council is not impressed by the high sums. After two years of Corona, the financial policy relationship in federal Berne to taxpayers’ money has changed drastically. While the supplementary and commitment credit was still heavily disputed in the pre-advising Finance Commission, only the SVP and parts of the center were against it in the National Council debate on Monday. They also consider the planned quantities to be far too high. The loans should be reduced accordingly.
“We now have to return to the usual financing and processes very quickly, otherwise we will not be able to get rid of the current processes,” says SVP National Councilor Sandra Sollberger. The financial politician is also amazed that the substances are becoming more expensive with the drastically reduced demand, “although the vaccinations should become cheaper in terms of quantity and effort after this time”. Skepticism in Parliament about the deals between the BAG and the vaccine manufacturers is growing, not only among the SVP and the center.
The Greens are also struggling with the Bundesrat’s plans. The Green National Councilor Felix Wettstein speaks of a “discomfort” with regard to the “cartel-like” position of the vaccine manufacturers, which one is helplessly at the mercy of. You can’t shake the feeling that “our nation is almost being forced here”. One speaks funds for a vaccine, of which one does not yet know whether it protects sufficiently against future mutations of the virus. The Greens finally gave in because they didn’t want to endanger the supply situation. “We’re participating in these loans and we feel pretty insecure about it.”
More than 15 million francs are wasted
The Greens’ stomach ache is justified. Switzerland has long had experience with the rigid order volumes that cannot be corrected afterwards. Last week, French-speaking Switzerland television announced that Switzerland was already left with 620,000 expired Moderna cans. If, like some financial politicians, you calculate with a purchase price of 25 francs per can, 15.5 million francs are wasted in the cantons and at the army pharmacy – not including the disposal costs.
On Wednesday, the Council of States will also deal with the supplementary credit. In the run-up to this, the responsible commission had decided to reduce the number of desired doses from 33 million to 20 million and to cut the credits accordingly. However, it is far from clear that this narrow majority holds. The pressure from Health Minister Alain Berset and his officials is so great that people are secretly wondering whether the Federal Council has already signed the contracts – without attaching a parliamentary scrutiny.
The sourcing deals have been one of Berset’s best-kept secrets since the pandemic began. Based on the Disclosure Act, a private lawyer has managed to get the BAG to make the documents public in the near future. He might not be the only one interested in it.