As tourists have returned to the Seychelles, where more than 60% of the population has been vaccinated, new coronavirus cases are forcing the island country to reimpose restrictions.
Seychelles, an island nation in the Indian Ocean, announced the reopening of borders for tourists in March to revive its economy which is heavily reliant on the tourism industry. The archipelago kicked off an aggressive vaccination drive to inoculate its population of nearly 100,000 and soon became the world’s most vaccinated country.
Despite vaccinating the majority of its population, the country has been recording a huge surge in coronavirus cases. In fact, last week the country decided to close schools and cancel sporting activities for two weeks, in a bid to flatten the curve. “Despite all the exceptional efforts we are making, the Covid-19 situation in our country is critical right now, with many daily cases reported last week,” Peggy Vidot, the nation’s health minister, said at a press conference on May 4, reported The Economic Times.
Seychelles began vaccinating its population against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) using a donation of China’s Sinopharm vaccines from the United Arab Emirates. Later, the island nation used the Covishield vaccines, a version of AstraZeneca’s shot manufactured by Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII). As per the latest data, more than 60 per cent of Seychelles’ population has been fully vaccinated and around 70 per cent has been administered at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. The percentage of the fully vaccinated population is more than other vaccine giants like Israel and the United Kingdom.
In spite of these impressive vaccination figures, Seychelles this week reported the highest number of Covid-19 cases per capita, worse than a country like India which has not even 3 per cent of its population fully vaccinated. According to Our World in Data, the latest rolling 7-day average for daily new Covid-19 cases per capita in Seychelles is more than twice India’s.
The Seychelles situation is being watched all over the world for what it says about the effectiveness of vaccines. “It is providing a critical case to consider the effectiveness of some vaccines and what range we have to reach to meet herd immunity,” said Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations. Huang noted that other nations that had vaccinated large proportions of their populations, including Israel and Britain, had seen significant drops in new daily cases.
Sherin Francis, chief executive of the Seychelles tourism board, said that while much of the population was vaccinated, there were pockets that were not. Government data released this week found that of 1,068 active cases, around 65 percent involved residents who were either completely unvaccinated or had received only one dose. Francis emphasized that even people who have been vaccinated can get infected. “Vaccines are very effective at preventing serious illness and death; they are less good at preventing infection,” Francis said.
So far, the number of deaths in Seychelles attributed to the virus is relatively low — 28 out of more than 6,000 cases. But the surge in new cases may also confirm that the vaccines being used in the country have comparatively low effectiveness. Roughly 60% of the doses administered in Seychelles are vaccines made by the Chinese company Sinopharm that were donated to Seychelles by the United Arab Emirates. The remaining doses are of the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and produced by the Serum Institute of India.
In many ways, Seychelles government negotiations for vaccine supplies were savvy and speedy. But the country has ended up using two vaccines that appear to be less effective against symptomatic covid-19. The World Health Organization recently estimated the efficacy of the Sinopharm vaccine at just over 78 percent for adults under 60, with little data on its success with older patients.
The Digpu News Bottomline
The resurgence of COVID-19 cases in Seychelles might be a source of worry for almost all the countries of the world as the spread that this virus is capable of mind-boggling. At the same time, countries that have inoculation drives going on with the Chinese Sinopharm Vaccine or the AstraZeneca-Serum Institute of India Vaccine should be more worried than the rest. The resurgence casts a huge shadow of doubt on the effectiveness of these vaccines and these countries might need to rethink their strategies.
India has been inoculating its more endangered age group, the 45+, with Covishield. The AstraZeneca and SII vaccines used in Seychelles as well. Given how badly India has been caught in the second wave, does the government need to look at the Seychelles COVID statistics and come up with a new inoculation plan? No one knows. Probably not even the government.