FAQ

This section provides information about the distribution, storage and effect of iodine tablets and about what you should do if a serious incident involving a nuclear power plant occurs.

You can download a PDF document containing all the questions and answers.

Childcare

Under the Dosage Administration Concept specified in Article 8, Paragraph 3 of the Ordinance on the Provision of the Population with Iodine Tablets and Annex 2 of the Ordinance on the Federal Civil Protection Crisis Management Board, the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) is authorised to order the issuance of iodine tablets as an immediate action in response to a corresponding event. The iodine tablets concerned are a medicinal product as defined in the Therapeutic Products Act (TPA). 

The issuance of medicinal products is basically regulated by the TPA. For such issuance purposes, potassium iodide is a Category D medicinal product, which means that it may basically only be issued under specialist guidance from a person qualified to do so (in accordance with Article 43 of the Ordinance on Medicinal Products). In the context of emergency response measures, however, the usual issuance requirements under the Therapeutic Products Act are overridden by the Ordinance on the Provision of the Population with Iodine Tablets, as is specified in the Radiation Protection Act.

On the basis of the above, potassium iodide tablets are issued in accordance with the Ordinance on the Provision of the Population with Iodine Tablets at various levels (Swiss Military Pharmacy → households; issuance centres → schoolchildren, employees etc.; pharmacies and drugstores → additional issuance in the event of an emergency, etc.; see also Articles 3 and 5 of the Ordinance on the Provision of the Population with Iodine Tablets). The corresponding specialist guidance is assured in such cases via specific information provided by the relevant authorities.

Under Article 3, Paragraph 2 of the Ordinance on the Provision of the Population with Iodine Tablets, iodine tablets are to be distributed to issuance centres such as schools and daycare centres which are located within a 50-kilometre radius of a Swiss nuclear power plant. Such provision implies by extension that the institutions concerned are authorised to issue such iodine tablets to children in the event of an emergency and if ordered to do so by the authorities.

Parental responsibility (as defined in Article 296ff. of the Swiss Civil Code) includes the right and the obligation to take decisions on behalf of the child if the child is not yet able to do so themselves. Such responsibility also extends to decisions on medical or medicinal interventions. In accordance with Article 301 of the Swiss Civil Code, the parents are required to raise and care for the child with the child’s best interests in mind and to take all the associated decisions unless and until the child is able to act in their own capacity. The parents are also required to raise the child in accordance with their circumstances and situation, and to promote and safeguard the child’s physical, mental and moral development (Swiss Civil Code Article 302, Paragraph 1). Such care of the child also extends to the care of their health, and thus also to any issuance of medicinal products and the administration and consumption thereof. 

In view of the above, parents must be regularly informed about any issuance of potassium iodide by their school or daycare centre in response to a relevant event. To this end, the institutions concerned are advised to provide such information in a regularly-issued information sheet and/or via their regulations or similar channels. 

The right of self-determination includes the right of every individual to accept or decline medical or medicinal treatment. Since children in some age groups will not be capable of taking the corresponding decision on their own, and may also be unable to adequately communicate any pre-existing thyroid condition and/or allergies they may have, the responsibility for doing so rests with their parents. And when such parents are adequately informed, if there are reasons why their child should not be issued with iodine tablets, they will be able to take the appropriate action required. 

The above essentially also concurs with the position paper issued by the Northwest Switzerland Cantonal Pharmacies’ Association (H 013.01) on ‘Issuing and administering medicinal products from an “emergency pharmacy” in schools, companies, holiday camps, associations and similar’. In a concrete event requiring the issuance and administration of such medicinal products, it may be unfeasible, in the circumstances, to obtain the requisite consent of the parents or other legal guardians concerned. The schools and daycare centres involved could obtain such consent from these parents or legal guardians in advance, in the form of a formal declaration of consent. But any such approach would also need to consider the length of the validity of any prior consent so given.

The precise approach adopted should also be described in the emergency response manual of the school or daycare centre concerned. 

Corresponding instructions will be issued by the authorities by radio and other media.