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Original article

Vol. 152 No. 1516 (2022)

Assessing real-world vaccine effectiveness against severe forms of SARS-CoV-2 infection: an observational study from routine surveillance data in Switzerland

  • Nanina Anderegg
  • Christian L. Althaus
  • Samuel Colin
  • Anthony Hauser
  • Anne Laube
  • Mirjam Mäusezahl
  • Moritz Wagner
  • Biagio Zaffora
  • Julien Riou
Cite this as:
Swiss Med Wkly. 2022;152:w30163


BACKGROUND: In Switzerland, SARS-CoV-2 vaccination campaigns started in early 2021. Vaccine coverage reached 65% of the population in December 2021, mostly with mRNA vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNtech. Simultaneously, the proportion of vaccinated among COVID-19-related hospitalisations and deaths rose, creating some confusion in the general population. We aimed to assess vaccine effectiveness against severe forms of SARS-CoV-2 infection using routine surveillance data on the vaccination status of COVID-19-related hospitalisations and deaths, and data on vaccine coverage in Switzerland.

METHODS: We considered all routine surveillance data on COVID-19-related hospitalisations and deaths received at the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health from 1 July to 1 December 2021. We estimated the relative risk of COVID-19-related hospitalisation or death for not fully vaccinated compared with fully vaccinated individuals, adjusted for the dynamics of vaccine coverage over time, by age and location. We stratified the analysis by age group and by calendar month. We assessed variations in the relative risk of hospitalisation associated with the time since vaccination.

RESULTS: We included a total of 5948 COVID-19-related hospitalisations of which 1245 (21%) were fully vaccinated patients, and a total of 739 deaths of which 259 (35%) were fully vaccinated. We found that the relative risk of COVID-19 related hospitalisation was 12.5 (95% confidence interval [CI] 11.7–13.4) times higher for not fully vaccinated than for fully vaccinated individuals. This translates into a vaccine effectiveness against hospitalisation of 92.0% (95% CI 91.4–92.5%). Vaccine effectiveness against death was estimated to be 90.3% (95% CI 88.6–91.8%). Effectiveness appeared to be comparatively lower in age groups over 70 and during the months of October and November 2021. We also found evidence of a decrease in vaccine effectiveness against hospitalisation for individuals vaccinated for 25 weeks or more, but this decrease appeared only in age groups below 70.

CONCLUSIONS: The observed proportions of vaccinated among COVD-19-related hospitalisations and deaths in Switzerland were compatible with a high effectiveness of mRNA vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNtech against hospitalisation and death in all age groups. Effectiveness appears comparatively lower in older age groups, suggesting the importance of booster vaccinations. We found inconclusive evidence that vaccine effectiveness wanes over time. Repeated analyses will be able to better assess waning and the effect of boosters.


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