With more than 60% of the population vaccinated, Seychelles has faced a recent increase in the number of Covid-19 cases. There are just over 100 infections per day, which is high if it is linked to the country’s small population, which numbers less than 100,000. The scenario in the African country, located in the Indian Ocean, draws attention to the progression of the coronavirus among a widely vaccinated population.
The position sparked controversy over the effectiveness of the immune system: about 60% of the doses taken in the country are from the Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinopharm, which has just over 78% of the effectiveness estimated by the World Health Organization (WHO) for adults under 60 years old. .
The rest was produced by the Serum Institute in India using AstraZeneca technology, according to The Washington Post, with an overall efficiency of 79%. However, local government data shows that of the 1,068 active cases, about 65% were in the population who had not been vaccinated or who only received one dose.
“It is a critical case to consider the efficacy of some vaccines and the scope to which we must go to achieve group immunity,” said Yanzhong Huang, a senior global health researcher with the Council on Foreign Relations.
Huang cites countries like Israel and the United Kingdom, which are also considering immunizing a large portion of the population and have seen a significant drop in cases. The Executive Director of the Seychelles Tourism Board, Sherine Francis, also indicated that there were groups in the country that had not yet received the vaccine, and even those who were vaccinated could still contract the disease in a milder way. According to the Washington Post, the number of deaths so far has reached 28 out of more than 6,000.
For epidemiologist Jennifer Huang Boy of Rand Corp., less than 49% of the local population can be guaranteed to be protected by vaccinations, according to what is known about vaccination in the Seychelles. “It is still far below the protection requirements at the community level,” he said.
The importance of tourism
According to the World Bank, the country has about a quarter of its economy linked to tourism and has seen its economic production drop by 13.5% in 2020. The intention of the local government was to speed up vaccination, and thus, vaccine donations were requested in agreements with regional allies, such as India and the United Arab Emirates. President Wevil Ramka Lawan’s intention was to achieve collective immunity as quickly as possible to reopen the borders to tourists.
However, even with a high vaccination rate, according to the Washington Post, Seychelles has identified the largest number of daily cases per person for the novel coronavirus. As a result, the restrictions were implemented again. The border, which has been reopened to tourism since the end of March, remains unrestricted for travelers, who must only submit a negative PCR test to enter the country.
Relatively speaking, given the number of cases per capita, the outbreak in Seychelles today is worse than the large increase seen in India. The future is of great concern because it represents “a huge burden on an already dilapidated public health system,” Malchini Senaratne, a director of a country’s environmental consulting firm, told the Washington Post. In response, measures have been adopted such as closing schools and limiting the opening of stores and restaurants again.
Tourism Board Executive Director Sherine Francis said only 10% of positive cases occur among tourists visiting the island, according to the Washington Post. However, epidemiologist Huang Pui considers it essential to maintain care to prevent outbreaks of new diseases, even though vaccines help prevent deaths. He said: “Quarantine, wearing a mask, and preventing crowding should be part of the public health strategy.”
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