If you get vaccinated against a disease, you usually don't get ill with that disease again. In addition, you rarely transmit the pathogen to others. If enough people are vaccinated, a disease becomes rare or even disappears altogether.
Certain vaccinations protect mainly against severe complications of the disease; the disease can still be transmitted, but is less common.
A vaccine enters the body by injection into the bloodstream, as an oral vaccination through the mouth, or as a nasal spray. The vaccine allows the body to practise for the real situation: it simulates an invasion of harmful bacteria or viruses by means of harmless pathogens (or pathogen components). The immune system is thereby activated and so trained and optimally prepared to fend off these pathogens. If our body later actually comes into contact with bacteria or viruses that threaten our health, it can target them and fight them off quickly before serious complications arise.
All vaccines are thoroughly tested before they are approved. The health risk associated with vaccination is extremely small, and serious side effects occur very rarely. This means that vaccination is much less dangerous for you than suffering the disease.
Some people may have health reasons for not getting vaccinated. If you are concerned, you should talk to your doctor about this.
In Switzerland, no one may be forced to be vaccinated. It is possible, however, that you may face certain consequences if you do not get vaccinated.
Because of the benefits, the federal government recommends a wide range of vaccinations.
The Federal Office of Public Health recommends around a dozen vaccinations for infants and children. Depending on the safety needs and status of the child, further vaccinations are advisable. You will find further details on the Vaccinations for infants and children page (not in English). Your doctor will also be able to advise you.
The costs of the recommended vaccinations and certain other vaccinations are covered by your health insurance, subject to your deductible and excess.
Children between the ages of 11 and 15 should receive a repeat or booster vaccination for certain diseases. Certain other vaccinations should be given for the first time. The reason for this is that adolescents are more likely to contract certain diseases or may face a more severe form of a disease than younger children if they are infected. The main focus is on vaccination against human papilloma viruses (HPV), which can cause cervical cancer and other types of cancer. Vaccination against hepatitis B is recommended for all adolescents who have not already received this vaccine as an infant. Adolescents who did not have chickenpox as a child should also get vaccinated against this disease. Depending on the situation, other vaccinations may be useful. You will find further details on the page Vaccinations for adolescents (not in English).
Even as an adult, you should renew your vaccinations from time to time. In particular, you are recommended to get booster jabs for diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus. You can also catch up on important vaccinations that you have missed, especially those against measles, mumps and rubella.
If you belong to a risk group, further vaccinations are recommended. You will find further details on the Vaccinations for adults page (not in English).
Flu can be serious for infants, the elderly (65 years and older), pregnant women, and people with a chronic illness. The best protection is the flu jab. The federal government therefore recommends the flu vaccine for all persons in the risk groups mentioned (except for infants up to six months of age) and for those who are in close contact with them. You can find out whether it makes sense for you to get vaccined at Flu vaccination check.
Because flu viruses are constantly changing, you should get re-vaccinated every autumn. Ideally, you should get the jab in the period between mid-October and the start of the flu season, which is usually in January. A national flu vaccination day is held each November. Even if you get a flu jab in December or later, there is still plenty of time for your immune system to build up protection. In recent decades, the seasonal flu epidemic has tended to begin sometime between December and March.
You can protect yourself against meningitis and encephalitis (also known as tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) by getting a TBE vaccination. This viral disease is transmitted through a bite from an infectious tick.
Tick vaccination is recommended for everyone over the age of six who spends time in high-risk areas. Children can be vaccinated from the age of one if they are regularly exposed to the risk of bites from infectious ticks. The whole of Switzerland is considered a risk area, apart from the cantons of Geneva and Ticino. The vaccine protects only the person vaccinated, as FSME cannot be transmitted from person to person.
Please note: The tick vaccine does NOT protect you against Lyme disease (borreliosis), which is also transmitted by ticks. However, Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics.
You should find out what you need to do no later than four weeks before a trip. Which vaccinations are necessary and should you seek protection against malaria? You will find information at www.healthytravel.ch. If you are travelling to a country or region with an increased health risk, you should seek advice from a doctor about the precautions and medicines required.
NB: In some countries, certain vaccinations are mandatory.