Cases like the one in Seychelles, where a third of covid cases were vaccinated, raise concerns about some vaccines
Seychelles is a leader in vaccination, ahead even of Israel: 63% of its population is immunized, the majority with the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine
Israel and the US, also with high vaccination rates, have greatly reduced their infections: they vaccinate, above all, with Pfizer and Moderna
Israel, USA and UK They have something in common. Seychelles, Bahrain and Maldives, also. If we start with the first three, we see that they are countries with very high vaccination rates of their population and who have experienced a very important decrease in the incidence of covid. On IsraelIn particular, cases have plummeted in recent months. Have vaccinated with Pfizer.
UK, what is vaccinating with Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZenecaThese days, it is facing some outbreaks of covid, generated by the Indian variant, and that has caused a small upturn in its curve, but they are localized and controlled outbreaks for the moment, especially in people with a single dose administered. On USA, with 50% of its population vaccinated, infections are very low. There they are vaccinating with, above all, with Pfizer and Moderna.
Israel records spectacular epidemiological data for 4 months in a row:
1️⃣ 99.7% fewer cases since January.
2️⃣ 99% fewer critically ill patients.
3️⃣ 98.5% fewer deaths.
4️⃣ Effects in all age groups. (Data: @segal_eran). pic.twitter.com/tr3PkGGVsm
– Gorka Orive (@gorka_orive) May 26, 2021
Like those three countries, the other three (Seychelles, Bahrain and Maldives) also have very high vaccination rates. Seychelles, in fact, it is the country in the world that has the largest population fully immunized, 63%, ahead even of Israel. Despite this, In these three countries there is a significant upturn in covid cases, an increase in infections. Also between vaccinated. In this case, vaccinated with other vaccines.
Maldives and Seychelles vaccinate, above all, with the Chinese Sinopharm, and also with AstraZeneca, marketed there under the Covishield name. Bahrain uses Pfizer, Covishield and Sinopharm.
The difference between the effects of vaccination in the first three countries and in the second three it looks very graphically when we compare the incidence curves, for example, of the Maldives or Bahrain with that of the USA. Which leads some to conclude that Chinese vaccines, like Sinopharm’s, are not working well.
But what does all this indicate? Experts point to two things.
What not all vaccines are equally effective in preventing contagion
What vaccines are not a panacea. Even if we are vaccinated, it is just as important to continue to maintain certain protective measures for a while, such as distance between people or indoor masks
The Vaccines are effective for what they announced they would be: preventing death and hospitalization from covid. But they are not so much to avoid contagion. In fact, they were not designed with that objective, because it was not the most urgent thing. Many of those that arrive later – such as the one developed at the CSIC by Luis Enjuanes – will be sterilizers. But those that are being administered now are not: they do not prevent infection. Y If a vaccinated person becomes infected, even if they are no longer going to die or end up in the ICU, they can spread the virus. This is what would be happening in the Seychelles, Maldives or Bahrain.
The case of Seychelles, a warning to the world
A couple of months ago, Seychelles, which lives off tourism, decided to reopen its borders to all international travelers. At that time, the African archipelago registered less than 4,000 cases of covid and 16 deaths, in a population of 100,000 people. Had to more than 60% of its population fully vaccinated already 70% with one dose. But since then, covid cases have skyrocketed to more than double and the country has had to re-impose restrictions.
The May 10, the curve of COVID cases in that country, which came from a very long valley close to zero, was experiencing a steep climb, registering 1799 cases. But the most worrying thing of all was that, that same day, the Ministry of Health announced that 37% of the new cases were registered in people immunized with the two doses. What was happening? And why other countries, such as Israel, with a very similar percentage of vaccinated population (55%), had not suffered this spike in infections?
The Most of those vaccinated in Seychelles (57%) have received Sinopharm, and 43% have been vaccinated with Covishield (AstraZeneca). Although an important piece of information is missing: it is not known how many of those infected had received one vaccine and how many the other. But we do know that almost all cases of covid detected in vaccinated (two-thirds) are mild or asymptomatic. There are hardly any hospitalized.
80% of those who are admitted for covid in Seychelles had not been vaccinated. Another 20% yes, but the Ministry of Health explains that none of these is a serious case and that no one who has been vaccinated has died of covid. Therefore, the local authorities ensure that what is happening matches the expectations they had about vaccines, which can reduce severe covid infections but do not provide complete immunization. But you also have to take into account that there are vaccines and vaccinations.
Sinopharm: less effective against contagion
All currently approved vaccines are 100% effective against deaths. They prevent you from dying from covid. But when we talk about getting mildly ill or infecting you, despite being vaccinated, things vary a lot depending on whether it is one or the other. The Chinese vaccine Sinopharm, which is being inoculated the most in the Seychelles, is much less effective than mRNA vaccines.
That of Pfizer, which is the most used in Israel, is showing a very high effectiveness in that country to avoid contagion: 94%. And studies carried out with vaccinated people in the US show similar data for both this vaccine and that of Moderna. Practically it blocks the transmission of the virus, it prevents what is happening in Seychelles from happening.
The vaccine Sinopharm, on the other hand, it showed an efficacy in trials of 78% against symptomatic covid and only 63% to prevent infection, that is, contagion. The WHO authorized it on May 7 and it is the first non-Western vaccine to obtain approval. But now, what is happening in Seychelles, and in Maldives or Bahrain, who are also managing it, has planted many doubts about whether it is really effective to stop the virus.
Experts warn that, having seen what is seen, its effectiveness in the real world is being less than it showed in trials: around 50% against symptomatic covid. It is explained in the New York Times by Kim Mulholland, an Australian researcher and vaccine expert, who qualifies as “Alarming” what is happening. Alarming because There are 56 countries in the world that have this vaccine to protect themselves from covid. It is cheaper than the others and the WHO considers it “very suitable” for areas with little resources, for its simple preservation requirements.
Is it the vaccine or human behavior?
The African archipelago authorities do not attribute what happened to vaccines, but to the increase in economic activity, to the return from tourism since the vaccinated “They have lowered their guard”. For two months, they have received about 500 visitors every day. “If the situation worsened so much that tourists stopped coming, that would be a great concern,” warn those responsible for Tourism in that country. Wavel Ramkalawan, President of Seychelles, has assured that “People can be infected, but not sick. Only a small number are, so what is happening is normal. “
Reduced efficiency versus variants
The WHO is studying the situation and describes it as “worrying”. Kate O’Brien, Head of Immunizations at WHO, explained that “some of the reported cases occur shortly after a single dose, or shortly after a second dose, or between the first and second doses.” But The agency is also investigating which variants are circulating in that country, because it is another of the data that is not clear, and it is It is important to know how much of what happened could be attributed to the low efficacy of the vaccine and how much to the virus.
Yes it is already known that the South African variant is present in Seychelles, and that could give some clue, because it is the one with the greatest capacity to avoid antibodies. The another vaccine being inoculated there, although to a lesser extent, it is Covishield (AstraZeneca), and studies indicate that this vaccine hardly protects against this variant.
It is important to choose the vaccine well
The case of Seychelles reminds us that, even after mass vaccinations, infections are unlikely to stop completely. They will not disappear. Although with some vaccines the virus will be kept more at bay and with others, less. Some scientists already warn that Sinopharm’s vaccine, for example, may not be an effective weapon to achieve herd immunity of the population in which it is inoculated.
The countries that use it “They have to assume a significant failure rate and they have to plan accordingly,” says John Moore, vaccine expert. from Cornell University. “You have to alert people that they will still have a significant chance of becoming infected,” he warns in the NYT. Raina MacIntyre, a biosafety expert at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, is blunt when analyzing what happened: “The choice of the vaccine is important.”