COVID outbreak in world’s most vaccinated country ‘mostly among people who haven’t had jab’

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Pedestrians wear masks as they walk on a street in the capital Victoria, Mahe Island, Seychelles Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The president of the Indian Ocean island nation of Seychelles says he hopes enough residents will soon be vaccinated against COVID-19 to stop the spread of the virus, hoping to achieve herd immunity by mid-March by vaccinating about 70% of the population. (AP Photo/Salim Ally)
Pedestrians wear masks as they walk on a street in the capital Victoria, Mahe Island, Seychelles. (AP)

A COVID outbreak in the world’s most vaccinated country has mostly spread among the people who haven’t had a jab, a government minister has said.

The Seychelles has been suffering from a surge in cases, despite 70% of its population having received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

But the country’s minister for foreign affairs and tourism Sylvestre Radegonde has said the virus is mostly spreading among those who have not had a vaccine.

He told the Seychelles News Agency that around 80% of people in the Seychelles who were recently infected have not been vaccinated.

The minister also said the situation is manageable and that the health system is not under pressure because people are not seriously ill with the disease.

Lonely beaches in Moyenne Island Seychelles Ste Anne Marine National Park off the north coast of Mah� (Photo by Sergi Reboredo/Sipa USA)
Moyenne Island, Seychelles. (Sipa USA)

Out of approximately 40 people who have recently been hospitalised in the county, only two are in critical conditions in intensive care, Radegonde said.

Other patients, who are mostly Seychellois, are stable with mild symptoms because they’ve been vaccinated, he added.

"This shows that the vaccination has had its effect," Radegonde said.

It comes after the archipelago saw its seven-day case rate per million people skyrocket to 1,480 on Monday, 3 May – the highest in the world at the time.

Watch: COVID-19 vaccination rates around the world

By Sunday, the rolling average halved to 726.34, placing the Seychelles fourth in the world for highest rate – behind Uruguay, the Maldives and Bahrain.

Radegonde said the increase in tests and contact tracing has prompted the figures to fluctuate but also accounted for the recent surge in cases.

However, he said the situation is still concerning, with the figures also suggesting that people are taking less care to stay safe due to the successful vaccination programme.

"Seychellois because they are vaccinated now are relaxing and think that all is OK," he said. 

"We are letting our guard down, we are not as careful as before."

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According to Oxford University’s Our World In Data website, Seychelles currently has the highest vaccine coverage in the whole world, with 129.88 per 100,000 people receiving a dose.

So the outbreak in Seychelles initially caused alarm over how well the vaccines were working.

According to Reuters, the World Health Organization has said it has "very low confidence" in vaccine data provided by Sinopharm – one of the two vaccines Seychelles has been administering.

But the fact that most of those who have caught COVID in Seychelles have not been vaccinated suggests that low vaccine efficacy is unlikely to have contributed to the latest surge.

However, the data does show that the risk of transmission remains high even in countries with high vaccination rates.

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