COVID-19 Vaccinations in Seychelles
Seychelles is an archipelago of 115 islands located at the eastern edge of the Somali sea and is home to Africa’s smallest nation with just 97,625 people. The tropical climate, white sand beaches and crystal-clear lagoons make it a popular vacation destination. However, like many tourist economies, Seychelles’ tourism sector struggled under COVID-19 pandemic restrictions on travel. But, thanks to an ambitious campaign, COVID-19 vaccinations in Seychelles is a success story, putting the island in the spotlight for holding one of the highest rates of vaccinations in the world. This is despite a May 2021 surge in infections that led to the reimposition of mandates (such as school closures and a ban on bars and nightclubs), causing global concern about the efficacy of vaccination programs.

Facts About COVID-19 Vaccinations in Seychelles

  • On January 10, 2021, COVID-19 vaccinations in Seychelles hit the news when the nation became the first in Africa to roll out the vaccine after receiving a donation of 50,000 doses of the Chinese-made Sinopharm vaccine from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). As part of an effort to bolster vaccine confidence, President Wavel Ramkalawan stood as “the first African head of state” to receive this particular vaccine, followed by former president Danny Faure and other senior officials.
  • On January 23, 2021, Seychelles received a second donation of COVID-19 vaccinations, this time from India: 50,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, also known as Covishield.
  • Seychelles had vaccinated more than 60% of its population against COVID-19 by May 2021. Still, the country saw a sharp increase of new cases, from 120 new COVID-19 cases confirmed on April 30, 2021, to more than 300 cases per day recorded on May 7 and May 8, 2021.  More than a third of these new cases were among people who received two doses of the vaccine. The remaining cases were people who only received a single dose or no dose at all.
  • In September 2021, the U.S. Embassy to Mauritius and Seychelles announced the delivery of more than 35,000 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine from the United States. The donation forms part of the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to sharing the U.S. vaccine supply with countries worldwide.
  • According to the World Health Organization (WHO), between January 3, 2020, and October 21, 2021, Seychelles has recorded 22,071 cases of COVID-19 and 114 deaths. As of October 15, 2021, the nation has administered a total of 159,392 COVID-19 vaccines.

Paving the Path to Recovery

With a majority vaccinated population, Seychelles is open for business and welcomes foreign visitors. To protect Seychellois, the government requires a negative COVID-19 test for all arrivals to the islands, including fully vaccinated travelers. As Seychelles rebuilds its tourist industry, the government is making progress with strategies to diversify the economy and is calling on investors. In a July 2021 interview with China Global Television Network (CGTN), President Ramkalawan reported that Seychelles’ new economic plan emphasizes fisheries and agriculture, construction of hotels and the launching of fish processing facilities. Ramkalawan’s administration is actively seeking ways for Seychelles to “build itself anew” in order to create a balanced and robust economy. A successful and robust vaccination campaign has paved the way for Seychelles to rebuild and recover.

–  Jenny Rice
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 Vaccination in the MaldivesAs of June 29, 2021, the Maldives has reported more than 73,000 cases of COVID-19. The Maldives has a population of more than 515,000 with one of the country’s main sources of income stemming from tourism. The program for COVID-19 vaccination in the Maldives is not only protecting citizens but is also playing a significant role in post-pandemic economic recovery.

The Maldives in Numbers

In 2009, The rate of people living on less than $5.50 a day in the Maldives was 42.7%. Just seven years later, the poverty rate dropped to 3.4%. In recent years, the Maldives has made many improvements, contributing to the stability of the country. This includes infrastructure improvements and investments in health and education. The country boasts a close to 100% literacy rate and a life year expectancy of more than 78 years.

Through these developments, the Maldives has attained the status of an upper-middle-income country. In terms of economic growth, the country significantly relies on tourism revenue. In 2019, the tourism industry accounted for 21% of the country’s gross domestic product as more than 1.7 million people vacationed to the Maldives.

The Impact of COVID-19

In March 2020, the Maldives began to experience the harsh economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The tourism industry came to an abrupt halt and borders remained closed until mid-July 2020. Even as travel into the country re-opened, the Maldives reported only one-third of visiting tourists compared to the number of tourists visiting in 2019.

The decrease in tourism has contributed to the 28% decline in gross domestic product in 2020 and an increase in poverty to 7.2%. The pandemic has affected employees in the tourism industry more than any other industry in the Maldives. The JobCenter reports that within the tourism industry in the Maldives, only 74% of employees remained employed in 2020, with 30% on “no pay leave.”

With the program for COVID-19 vaccination in the Maldives, the country has the opportunity to protect its citizens and simultaneously bring its tourism rates back up.

The Maldives Vaccine Rollout

As of April 14, 2021, the Maldives has vaccinated 53% of its population with first doses. The country prioritized “90% of its frontline tourism workers” with a first dose. The vaccine is available at no cost to residents and migrant workers and is approved for anyone 16 or older. With the help of other countries and partnerships, the program for COVID-19 vaccination in the Maldives has seen success so far.

Factors that play an important role in this vaccine success include India’s donation of 100,000 Covishield vaccines on January 20, 2021. The Maldives has also purchased 700,000 AstraZeneca vaccine doses straight from the manufacturer. The Maldives expects to receive vaccines from the COVAX facility as well. The country has also received vaccine supplies from Singapore.

Because of the small Maldivian population and the allocation of vaccines the Maldives is receiving from various allies and organizations, there are currently no supply shortage concerns. The United States has also committed to donating roughly seven million vaccines to Asia by the end of June 2021. The U.S. vaccine donation will be distributed to several Asian countries, including the Maldives.

Visit, Vaccinate and Vacation

COVID-19 vaccinations in the Maldives will soon be open to tourists. The Maldives hopes to enact a “3V” strategy, “visit, vaccinate and vacation.” This approach will begin only after the remaining unvaccinated residents of the Maldives receive both doses of the vaccine. Once the Maldives meets this goal, it will have the ability to vaccinate tourists upon entry.

Leaders hope this initiative will help restore the hard-hit tourism industry and promote the health and safety of all people. Many tourists work remotely from the Maldives on so-called “workations.” The Maldives’ leaders believe the initiative will appeal to people desiring a holiday with the incentive of also getting access to COVID-19 vaccinations. Increased tourism will allow the employment rate to rise as demand in resorts, restaurants and shops expands with more visitors.

Tourism is steadily increasing throughout the country. With a creative solution, the Maldives aims to restore pre-pandemic tourism levels and the economy while prioritizing the health of citizens and travelers.

– Delaney Gilmore
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 Vaccination in Bhutan
COVID-19 vaccination in Bhutan began in March 2021. The long-term impact of COVID-19 remains limited to an economic slowdown from the country’s lockdowns. This is allowing the government to smoothly pivot to its long-term recovery goals.

Bhutan’s citizens are responsible for the global pandemic’s minimal impact on the Bhutanese population’s health. There was a consistently high amount of attention toward preparing response efforts. A high level of lower-income communities in Bhutan’s outskirts has expressed the country’s willingness to help its worst-off endure the crisis.

COVID-19 and Vaccinations in Bhutan

Reuters’ COVID-19 Tracker and its latest data from July 8, 2021 indicate that Bhutan’s infection rate stands at an average of 21 new cases each day. Broader statistics are a testament to successful containment efforts. The relatively small country’s 763,000 citizens boast a mere 2,249 infections and only one fatality. Meanwhile, vaccination rates trend at 92 doses per day. However, this is because the Bhutanese government already distributed its vaccine stockpile to an overwhelming majority of its citizens.

As a nation that uses the philosophy of “Gross National Happiness” as a guide, a ready amount of native volunteers answered the call to bring vaccines to those in need. Avoiding a national health crisis means enduring an economic slowdown. However, Bhutan’s most vulnerable citizens can expect a consistent level of support while recovery continues. A hallmark of this success is its sheer rapidity. For example, “…within two weeks, it had reached more than 90% of the adult population eligible for vaccination,” observed The Lancet in its retrospective on how COVID-19 vaccination in Bhutan led to distributing the first of two doses.

Garnering Vaccines

Bhutan did not receive its total Covishield supply all at once. The first shipment of aid from India arrived in the form of 150,000 doses on January 20, 2021. Rather than delivering vaccinations in a staggered fashion as new doses arrived, the Ministry of Health selected March 27, 2021 to begin distribution due to the day’s astrological significance.

This decision left enough doses available to completely sidestep the issue of managing a chain of priority groups for the first wave of COVID-19 vaccination in Bhutan. Combining this with a willingness to confront the challenges of shipping Covishield to rural areas resulted in poorer communities facing relatively insubstantial delays.

Participatory Spirit

While the practical hurdles of COVID-19 vaccination in Bhutan stem from its public servants’ sound preparation, the dearth of registrations is a credit to the government’s ability to mobilize its population. In this respect, further Ministry of Health action in the two months before March 27, 2021 encompassed a campaign to invigorate national spirit concerning the vaccine.

Aside from the publicity of choosing to begin distribution on an auspicious day, The Lancet reports on a series of regular broadcasts by Prime Minister Tshering to provide facts on the vaccine and ward off misinformation that could increase hesitancy to register. “It helps in making rational and well-informed decisions when you have in-depth knowledge of the subject yourself,” says Health Minister Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo on his government’s attention to keeping medical expertise at the center of its strategy.

Bouncing Back

Now that the immediate danger of an unvaccinated population has passed, the long-term benefits of resolving this crisis are apparent. Despite what the Bhutan Times characterizes as “challenging circumstances” over the course of 2020, it nonetheless describes progress toward achieving its development goals as “tremendous.”

A series of initiatives with the United Nations illustrates an optimistic attitude for the future as the economic climate slowly becomes more conducive to attracting young and newly enfranchised demographics to growing sectors of the economy. Plans are in development to a self-sufficient agricultural sector in line with 2030’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with the pandemic’s economic impact doing little to slow Bhutan’s process of positive systemic change.

Samuel Katz
Photo: Flickr