Seychelles, which has vaccinated more of its population against Covid-19 than any other country, saw active cases more than double in the week to May 7, raising concerns that inoculation is not helping turn the tide in some places.
The World Health Organization said vaccine failure couldn’t be determined without a detailed assessment and that it was working on evaluating the situation.
Kate O’Brien, director of the the WHO’s department of immunization, vaccines and biologicals, told a briefing Monday that the body was in direct communication with Seychelles and that a detailed assessment was needed looking at factors like strains of the virus and the severity of cases.
The Health Ministry of the archipelago off of Africa’s east coast said Monday that the number of active cases had more than doubled since last week to 2,486 people, and 37% of those have received two vaccine doses. Cases are also surging in the Maldives, another Indian Ocean island nation that’s a popular tourism destination.
In Seychelles, Sinopharm shots were issued to 57% of those who were fully inoculated and the rest with Covishield, a vaccine made in India under a license from AstraZeneca Plc. As of May 8 no one who had contracted Covid while being vaccinated had died, Seychelles News Agency reported, citing the minister for foreign affairs and tourism.
The Seychelles, a group of palm-fringed tropical islands, last week re-imposed curbs including closing schools, canceling sports events and banning mingling of households.
The country had raced to vaccinate its population of just under 100,000 — first with a donation of doses from China’s Sinopharm and then with a gift of Covishield, so it could reopen to the tourists who are the lifeblood of its economy.
Daniel Lucey, clinical professor of medicine at Dartmouth Geisel School of Medicine, said in a blog last week that data on genetic sequencing are not yet available for infections in Seychelles in April.
Still, the B.1.351 variant, first identified in South Africa late last year, was found in the Seychelles in February, he said. AstraZeneca’s vaccine appeared to be less effective against that variant in a study, and South Africa halted plans to use those injections.
A comparison between Sinopharm, Covishield and unvaccinated people who caught the coronavirus could be done using genetic sequencing and data on the severity of their infections, Lucey said.
Cases in the Maldives, which has seen a surge in visits from affluent Indians, have also shot up. The country has the most new cases per 100,000 people in the past five, seven and 14 days. Active cases jumped from 4,978 to 9,423 on May 9.
As of May 8, over 300,000 people in the Maldives had received at least one dose of a vaccine and 35% of the population had received two, according to the Health Protection Agency. The country has been using Sinopharm and Covishield.
Positive test results in Greater Male, the area in and around the capital of the Maldives, are about 60% of the total. As of May 7 the government closed gyms and cinemas and imposed a curfew from 9 p.m. until 4 a.m, the agency said.
The government is also now requiring that arrivals to the islands, including those who have been vaccinated, have a negative Covid-19 test administered four days before their departure.
—With assistance from Corinne Gretler.
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