The island nation of Seychelles, where 62.2 percent of its 98,000 citizens have been vaccinated, is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases. The government has closed schools and canceled sporting events to prevent further spread, according to a Bloomberg report.
Seychelles’ health minister, Peggy Vidot, told reporters on Tuesday, “Despite of 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.”
Many of the vaccines administered so far were donated by the United Arab Emirates. “By April 12, 59 percent of the doses administered were Sinopharm vaccines and the rest were Covishield, a version of AstraZeneca Plc’s shot made under license in India.”
Data website Worldometers showed 612 active cases on April 27. One week later, the number is 1,068, an increase of 75 percent.
Of those cases, 84% are Seychellois and the rest are foreigners, Daniel Lucey, Clinical Professor of Medicine at Dartmouth Geisel School of Medicine, said in a blog post. Just under two thirds of those are either unvaccinated or have only had one dose, and the rest have had two doses, he said.
While data on genetic sequencing are not yet available for infections in April, 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 it.
A comparison between Sinopharm, Covishield, and unvaccinated infected persons” could be done using genetic sequencing and data on the severity of their infections, Lucey said. “Given the widespread international use of these two vaccines there are global implications to what is happening now in the Seychelles.”
It’s not surprising that unvaccinated people have been infected. But what about the remaining “just over a third” who had been fully vaccinated and still contracted the virus.
Bloomberg reports that after Seychelles, Israel, UAE and the UK have the highest vaccination rates per capita. While new cases in Israel are down 99 percent from the January high, and in the UK, they are down 96 percent, the number of new cases in the UAE still remains stubbornly high.
Israel is using the Pfizer vaccine and the UK is using Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca as vaccine sources.
On the other hand, we know that many of the doses administered in the UAE came from Sinopharm. And the UAE donated a large number of doses to Seychelles.
The New York Times published an article about Sinopharm’s vaccine last week. “In early 2020, the Beijing Institute of Biological Products created an inactivated coronavirus vaccine called BBIBP-CorV. Clinical trials run by the state-owned company Sinopharm showed that it had an efficacy rate of 79 percent. China approved the vaccine and soon began exporting it to other countries.”
According to a report in The Washington Post last month, the head of the Chinese CDC admitted the “efficacy of Chinese coronavirus vaccines is ‘not high’ and that they may require improvements, marking a rare admission from a government that has staked its international credibility on its doses.”
“The government has already distributed hundreds of millions of doses to other countries, even though the rollout has been dogged by questions over why Chinese pharmaceutical firms have not released detailed clinical trial data about the vaccines’ efficacy. China has struck deals to supply many of its allies and economic partners in the developing world and boasted that world leaders — including in Indonesia, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates — have taken the shots.”
Clearly, I have no idea if China’s vaccines are effective or not. But if China is distributing inferior vaccines, especially after unleashing this plague on the world, that’s a problem. Perhaps not for China who will never take responsibility, but for those countries that trusted China in the first place.
It’s time for the world to hold China accountable. In the meantime, just to be on the safe side, those countries should use Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca as their sources for vaccines.