Seychelles will accelerate its COVID-19 vaccination programme to ensure that 70,000 residents are vaccinated when the island nation opens to visitors from any country except South Africa on March 25, said a top health official on Thursday.
The Public Health Commissioner, Jude Gedeon, told a press conference that presently 56,000 out of 98,000 people have received at least a first dose of either Sinopharm or Covishield.
“Seychelles is making good progress and we are presently ahead of all countries in terms of the number of people who have received at least a first dose of vaccine,” he said.
Gedeon said if more people get vaccinated “we will be able to reach our target for adequate immunity in the community to break the chain of transmission. This will allow us to open safely to our tourism industry with minimal disruptions to our normal lives.”
He added that vaccination is not mandatory but some businesses are moving in the direction of making vaccination obligatory for access to their services.
“There are airlines where being vaccinated will be mandatory and this is coming up. We are monitoring the global situation for the time being but we have not reached that stage. It is still optional now,” said Gedeon.
The Public Health Commissioner said that Seychelles will be receiving more stock of vaccines in the coming days which will allow the vaccination of more people.
He said that presently the health authorities are seeing a downward trend in active cases compared to mid-February.
Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, has recorded to date 2,890 cases out of which 343 are still active and 13 have died of the illness.
Gedeon said that the deaths recorded have been due to the patients having had underlying conditions that contributed to their demise.
He added that although Seychelles will achieve its target if the programme speeds up, “we don’t know how effective the vaccines we are giving are against the different variants. We do know there are some protection but we don’t know how much and for how long,” said Gedeon.
He said that samples to test for variants in Seychelles have been taken and prepared to ship to Kemri (Kenya Medical Research Institute) laboratory by Friday.
“We hope that we can get the results if not next week at the following one. It all depends on how fast they do the test,” said Gedeon.