Seychelles Vaccination Coverage: A Covid-19 epidemic is affecting one of the world’s most vaccinated countries. Although other countries fail to provide sufficient vaccines, the Seychelles has the enviable distinction of being completely immunised over 61.4 % of its population. But it hasn’t been enough to deter Covid from spreading.
Case numbers have been increasing in the Indian Ocean archipelago over the last month, causing authorities to enforce restrictions in the 98,000-person region. According to information released on Thursday, there are more than 2,700 active events.
According to the Ministry of Health, 33 % of existing active patients have been entirely vaccinated. On the surface, the fact that the Seychelles is now seeing an epidemic despite having such strong vaccine coverage raises the issue of whether countries will inoculate themselves out of the pandemic.
The Seychelles epidemic, though, isn’t an indication that the vaccines aren’t working, according to experts and local authorities. In either case, the tropical nation serves as a warning that even nations with strong vaccine rates must remain vigilant.
The Situation In Seychelles
The Seychelles was so secure in its treatment of the Covid-19 just over a month ago that it lifted most tourist restrictions. With few cases and a mass vaccine programme in place, the tourist-dependent country reopened its borders to nearly all foreign visitors, allowing those with a negative PCR test to visit without being quarantined.
It was a critical development for a nation where tourism produces 72 % of GDP and hires more than 30 % of the population directly or indirectly. The nation had recorded less than 3,800 cases and 16 deaths by that time.
According to Ministry of Health statistics released at a press conference Thursday, gross cases have more than doubled to 9,184, with 32 deaths.
It’s unclear what caused the outbreak, though Sylvestre Radegonde, the minister of international affairs and tourism, believes the virus was present all along and spread as people became more used to vaccination. Authorities have also caught more incidents thanks to improved touch tracing and checking.
“People have noticed over the past few months since vaccines that someone who gets affected may not get severely ill, dies, or has a lot of problems,” he said. People on the islands, he claims, enjoy partying and have been socialising without taking precautions. “People have relaxed their vigilance.”
The Seychelles depend on Sinopharm, a Chinese vaccine, and Covishield, an AstraZeneca vaccine produced in India. Sinopharm, which was given to those aged 18 to 60, received 57 % of all fully vaccinated citizens, while Covishield, which was given to those aged over 60, received 43 %.
The government stated that about 37% of positive cases from the week of May 8 had been completely vaccinated, but it did not specify which vaccines they got. The government hasn’t provided information about how old Covid-19 patients are.
According to the Ministry of Health, about 20% of those admitted to hospitals for care is vaccinated, however, their cases were not severe. Vaccination has been given to almost none of the serious and extreme cases needing intensive care, and no one who had been vaccinated had died of Covid-19.
“The vaccines, in the end, are proving to be successful in protecting humans. Many that have been vaccinated are not seeing any side effects “Radegonde remarked. “We continue to believe that the vaccines, both of them, have aided the world. It should have been a lot worse.”
What This Tells Us About Vaccines
Vaccinated people falling ill from Covid, according to others, suggests that the vaccines aren’t working. However, local officials, researchers, and the World Health Organization (WHO) believe the Seychelles’ experience has been mostly positive.
Despite the fact that all vaccinations have been approved by the World Health Organization, neither is 100 % safe against Covid-19. According to evidence from a major multi-country Phase 3 study, AstraZeneca has a 76 % efficacy rate against symptomatic coronavirus disease and a 100 % efficacy rate against serious or essential disease or hospitalisation, while Sinopharm has a 79 % efficacy rate against symptomatic coronavirus or hospitalisation.
The reports from Seychelles mirrored evidence that Covid-19 vaccines are particularly successful at reducing acute illness, hospitalisation, and deaths, according to Dr. Richard Mihigo, programme administrator for vaccine-preventable diseases at the WHO regional office for Africa.
“Until everyone is vaccinated, there is no explanation why the epidemic will not continue to spread,” he wrote in an email, adding that WHO teams are still reviewing results, assessing success, and analysing patterns in the world.
And if everyone was vaccinated, according to Michael Z. Lin, associate professor of neurobiology and bioengineering at Stanford University, approximately 20% of the population would still be vulnerable to the virus.
On the plus side, he added, those who had been vaccinated seemed to have a smaller risk of being diagnosed with Covid than someone who hadn’t.
Of course, there are holes in the records — critical information that will help us better understand how vaccines work.
It’s unclear, for example, what percentage of positive cases received Covishield vs Sinopharm.
It’s still unknown what versions are in circulation or how popular they are. Last month, the Seychelles News Agency announced that the South African version is present in the Seychelles, but it has not yet reported on the Indian variant. Other variants may be present, according to Radegonde, but they haven’t yet been discovered due to limited genomic research.
However, if the variant discovered in South Africa is universal, it may have an effect on vaccine effectiveness. The South African version of Covid-19 has been shown to have only “minimal security” by AstraZeneca.
What Does This Mean For Life Post-Vaccination?
The Seychelles serves as a warning that diseases are unlikely to go away entirely even after extensive vaccines.
According to Jeremy Lim, an associate professor at the National University of Singapore’s Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, the vaccinations available may minimise severe infections, but they do not have to sterilise immunity — or full defence — against Covid-19.
However, Cassie Berry, an immunology professor at Murdoch University in Perth, points out that the condition in the Seychelles is unlikely to be replicated elsewhere.
The rate of infection for vaccinated individuals will be determined by a variety of factors, including the type of vaccine they got and the population’s genetic makeup. She believes that countries that use vaccines with a higher effectiveness rate will achieve herd immunity sooner. Pfizer, for example, has a more than 90% success record against serious illness.
Lin said that having every vaccine was “more desirable” than going untreated and risking the disease’s 1% mortality rate. “The vaccines have shown to be very successful in preventing death,” Lin continued. “Rather than waiting for the great, it’s probably better to take whatever vaccine you can find.”
Jennifer Huang Bouey, an epidemiologist at the RAND Corporation in California, pointed out that not every country has access to one of the more reliable vaccines, particularly given that certain vaccines require a temperature-controlled supply chain.
A Cautionary Tale
The Seychelles is an example of vaccine effectiveness. However, it serves as a reminder that vaccines aren’t a panacea and that countries must be careful of new variations and transmission, according to Berry.
“We’re all rushing to get vaccinated,” she said, “although we must note that social distancing, fresh air, and masks are really effective at avoiding transmission.” “I believe it will continue to boil for some time.”
Although vaccinations are vital for reducing Covid-19 transmissions and outbreaks, according to Bouey, public health experts are increasingly accepting that while vaccines are critical for mitigating Covid-19 transmissions and outbreaks, they can not eradicate transmissions or outbreaks.
“Covid isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. The most possible scenario is that the rest of the world will have to put up with Covid “Lim of the National University of Singapore said.
That is definitely the mindset in the Seychelles, where tourism suffered a severe setback last year. With universal vaccination, becoming chronically sick from Covid is less of a problem, according to Radegonde, who is more concerned about the economic effects of increased case numbers.
So far, there has been no effect; approximately 500 visitors arrive each day, according to Radegonde, the tourism minister.
“It would be a major concern if the condition escalated to the point that visitors stopped coming,” he said. “Visitors are always welcome in the Seychelles. All are welcome. That is what we have no intention of changing.” Seychelles seems to have decided that mild complications from Covid are a reasonable price to pay.
While having Covid in their communities was good, countries needed to do more than just vaccinate, according to Lim. This included effective border controls, widespread monitoring, and hospitals equipped to handle diseases.
“You can’t simply throw out the public health playbook until you’ve vaccinated 60 % of the population,” Stanford’s Lin accepted.