The government of Seychelles is eyeing February 7 as the date when health care workers will start administering the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to the population, a step that would bring the island nation closer to reaching its goal of herd immunity by March.
The chief executive of the Health Care Agency, Danny Louange, told a press conference on Thursday that administering the second dose will be easier as there is less process to undergo.
“With the first dose, there is a consent form that needs to be signed, health promotion needs to be done through to educate people about the vaccine they are taking. For the second dose, the time that you will spend at a centre will be less so we will be able to vaccinate more people during the same period of time,” said Louange.
As of January 27, more than 25,000 people had received a first dose of a vaccine, which represents 27 percent of the total population. The country hopes to vaccinate 70,000 people so as to achieve herd immunity; to date 37 percent of this target has been attained. A total of 21,507 doses of Sinopharm and about 4,000 doses of Covishield have been administered.
“As of today, we have almost finished giving about 23,000 people their first dose which means we are almost at the target of 25,000 first doses of Sinopharm that we had set. The remaining 25,000 doses are to be administered as the second dose and this will start on February 7,” said Louange.
He added that before the date, he and his team hope at completing the administration of the first doses of Covishield.
“We have four centres administering Covishield and we are covering about over 2,000 person per day. As of Saturday, all our centres will start administering Covishield and as the turnout is really high for Covishield, it is easy for us to reach our target so we do not think that we will have an issue administering the second dose,” said Louange.
There are currently six vaccination centres in the country. Negotiations are ongoing to receive the remaining 40,000 doses of vaccine that the country needs to vaccinate 70 percent of the population. No date has been set as to when this batch of vaccine will be delivered.
One of the vaccination centres is at Grand Anse Mahe district administration. (Salifa Karapetyan, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY
“We are doing our best to get it by the end of next week or the one after. Our strategy was to cover health care workers, cover frontline workers, essential workers and now we are targeting people over 60, then we will start administering the vaccine to people with chronic illnesses who are below 60 years old. The remainder will be used to vaccinate the general public,” said Louange.
On the issue of visitors looking to travel to Seychelles, the public health commissioner, Jude Gedeon, said that at the moment very few people have sent in their vaccination certificates.
To travel to Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, a visitor currently needs to provide proof that they have received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, with a minimum of two weeks having elapsed since the last dose. The visitors also need to provide a negative PCR test done 72 hours before travelling.
Gedeon said that the main problem with this, “is the verification of the authenticity of the certificate, as with the PCR test, with which we had quite some issues to be able to know which certificates are genuine and which not to accept.”
“We are working with embassies so that they can provide us with samples of certificates being issued by different centres in their country so that we can cross check when a person sends in their certificate. People can still fake a vaccination certificate and if you are not careful, you will get people coming in saying that they have been vaccinated,” said Gedeon.
He added that at the moment when a person sends in a certificate, if the health ministry is not sure that the certificate is authentic, officers will ask for an antibody test as well to prove that the person has antibodies against COVID-19.