On November 19, 2021, rescue workers in Bavaria loaded a Covid 19 intensive care patient from an air rescue helicopter into an ambulance service vehicle.

Image: Keystone

A similar number of people are infected in Germany as in Switzerland. Even so, significantly more patients are being hospitalized. There are several causes for the phenomenon – but no reason to rest.

In Germany, the intensive care units in individual regions are already overloaded again due to the drastic increase in corona cases. Lukas Engelberger, President of the Cantonal Health Directors’ Conference, gave the all-clear for Switzerland last week. In this country, too, the goal is to keep the hospitals from becoming overloaded, but the situation is still bearable, he said at a joint media conference with Alain Berset on Thursday.

In fact, it is noticeable that in Switzerland currently only around half as many people need to be hospitalized as in Germany. There are 25 hospital admissions for a million inhabitants, while in Germany there are just under 50, as the newspapers from CH media report. The curve for new infections rises to a similar extent in both countries, and Germany even has a slightly higher vaccination rate: if a good 65 percent of the population in Switzerland was double vaccinated on November 19, it was almost 68 percent in Germany.

More modernity and infestation

Against this background, it is astonishing that Switzerland is currently in a significantly better position when it comes to hospitalizations. As Jan Fehr, an infectiologist at the University of Zurich, told the CH-Media newspapers, one possible reason is that Switzerland primarily used the mRNA vaccine from Moderna, while in Germany, in addition to Biontech / Pfizer, they mainly used the vaccine from Inoculated AstraZeneca.

The Moderna vaccine is currently not recommended for younger men in some countries because of an increased risk of myocarditis, but studies also suggest that the vaccine leads to higher levels of antibodies in the blood and possibly also provides slightly better protection against breakthroughs in the vaccine .

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According to Fehr, another possible cause could be that the infection in Switzerland may have progressed further than in Germany, i.e. more people already had immune protection due to a survived Covid 19 disease. After all, in Germany in the past few waves, tougher measures were chosen than in Switzerland, which means that the infection rates were also lower there.

Downward spiral in the health system

Finally, an already strained health system could encourage a downward spiral, explains Fehr. In the case of overloaded contact tracing or late diagnoses, therapy is also delayed. That in turn favors difficult courses. “That would explain why the intensive care units in these countries fill up more quickly,” the infectiologist told CH Media.

For Fehr, however, it is difficult to make a comparison between Switzerland and Germany due to the differences in size, as he points out. If the corona numbers in the much larger neighboring country were to rise rapidly in the eastern federal states, while it remained relatively quiet in the western states, then the “average would not say much.”

Fehr and his colleague from Ticino, the infectious disease specialist Andreas Cerny, warn in any case that one should not rest in Switzerland at the moment. In an interview with CH Media, Cerny fears that Switzerland is only a few days behind the development of its neighbors because the current corona wave is spreading across Europe from the northeast. Fehr already recommends drafting an «escalation plan». Otherwise, like a year ago, you will be caught off guard again.

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