Rabies vaccines in Switzerland only for vital indications

by | 23 Feb 2024 | Health

There is a severe shortage of rabies vaccines in Switzerland. To ensure that the available mandatory stocks are sufficient, their use is severely restricted.

Until February 2026, rabies vaccines from the compulsory stockpile will be distributed for only two vital indications, basically for occupationally exposed people and those bitten by an animal; thus, for the next two years they will not be available for those who get vaccinated before traveling abroad.


There are two suppliers of rabies vaccines in Switzerland, both of which have had to draw on mandatory stocks since the end of 2023. The supply of these vaccines is experiencing a slowdown and there is a worldwide shortage.

Mandatory stocks will have to suffice until further notice. Therefore, the Therapeutic Agents sector of the Economic Supply of the Country (EPA) decided to set conditions.

The Ordinance Concerning the Release of Compulsory Stockpiles of Vaccines of Human Medicine has been amended and goes into effect on Feb. 26, 2024, for two years. Therefore, rabies vaccine taken from the compulsory stockpile can only be used in two cases: for the purpose of professional prophylaxis (e.g., in veterinary medicine and animal care) and for treatment following animal bites.

The latter is the most common mode of infection, but animal saliva can also be infectious, through superficial skin lesions.


Mandatory stocks not intended for foreign travelers

In a normal supply situation, much of the rabies vaccine is used for those getting vaccinated for overseas travel. In the event of a severe shortage, however, so-called “travel medicine” cannot draw on mandatory supplies, this is to ensure the availability of vaccines needed for the two vital indications.

Preventive rabies vaccination is recommended for some high-risk countries but is not mandatory. It is advisable depending on the country, duration and type of travel to remote regions. These vaccinations remain possible with products not taken from the mandatory stockpile.

Vaccines are taken from the mandatory stockpile in small quantities. This ensures that they are used only for vital indications. Stock holders are required to record and report stock levels to EPA weekly.

As soon as compulsory stocks are placed on the market, cantonal physicians inform the medical corps that use is restricted. The supply situation is expected to return to normal in about two years.


Address to which questions should be addressed

UFAE communication.
media@bwl.admin.ch, +58 467 32 20