Seychelles: What is causing the post-vax rise in cases?

By Sonia Elijah August 11, 2021
Trouble in vaccinated paradise: The Seychelles has been hard hit by a surge in Covid-19 cases after its vaccine rollout. Trouble in vaccinated paradise: The Seychelles has been hard hit by a surge in Covid-19 cases after its vaccine rollout.

It may be one of the most-vaccinated countries on earth, but the Seychelles has seen an explosion in cases – and the imposition of crippling new lockdown restrictions – since rolling out the Covid-19 jab. As the rest of the continent races to follow its lead, with Burundi and Tanzania receiving their first shipments in recent days, investigative reporter Sonia Elijah asks what lessons, if any, can be learned from the Seychelles’ apparent vaccine failure.

  

Anyone closely following the Covid-19 data might have noticed an alarming pattern unfolding in many countries, which have reported a significant rise in cases and even deaths amongst the vaccinated.

This has occurred across the globe, from Malta, Gibraltar, Iceland and the UK, to Israel, southeast Asia and South America. 

Many African nations that had been relatively unaffected prior to the vaccine rollout have also experienced a surge in Covid cases since vaccination began, including Namibia, Zimbabwe, Congo, Angola, Malawi, Kenya and Zambia.

But nowhere has this anomaly been more pronounced than in the Seychelles. 

Once one of Africa’s top tourist destinations, the archipelago of 115 islands earned the title of being ‘the most vaccinated nation on earth’ earlier this year, after a higher proportion of its population received both doses than anywhere else in the world.

Following an aggressive vaccination programme, the island nation of just under 100,000 people has ‘fully vaccinated’ 69 per cent of its adult population and partially vaccinated more than 80 per cent.

It surpassed richer nations like the UK and Israel in its vaccine coverage rates.

However, scientists have been left baffled as to why, despite its early and near-universal vaccine rollout, it is has seen such a surge in cases. 

Recent data tells us that the daily new confirmed cases per million greatly surpasses that of the UK, US and France.

In the beginning of May, Covid-19 restrictions returned to the Seychelles, as the then most vaccinated country on earth struggled to contain an outbreak of the virus.

All educational facilities, shops, bars and restaurants were ordered to close in order to curb the surge in cases. Non-essential workers were encouraged to work from home.

Seychelles lockdown

Locked down: A woman walks down an empty street in Victoria, the capital of the Seychelles, during lockdown.

The Health Ministry announced in early May that more than a third of new infections were in people who had received both doses of either AstraZeneca’s Covishield vaccine or China’s Sinopharm.

Fifty-seven per cent of the vaccinated received both doses of the Sinopharm vaccine. 

What’s unusual about the data coming from Seychelles is that the surge of Covid-19 cases coincided around the time the Covid vaccines were introduced in January 2021, while deaths were only seen after the vaccine rollout. 

In an attempt to explain the Seychelles’ post-vax surge, the WHO’s Director of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals, Kate O’Brien, said: ‘Most of the cases which have occurred are mild cases. However, what’s also important is that a substantial fraction, over 80 per cent of the population, has been vaccinated [with at least one dose].

‘Some of the cases that are being reported are occurring either soon after a single dose, or soon after a second dose, or between the first and second doses.’ 

O’Brien said that a very detailed assessment was required ‘of what the situation is, first of all what the strains are that are circulating in the country, secondly when the cases occur relative to when somebody received doses, third what the severity of the cases is’. 

She added: ‘Only by doing that kind of evaluation can we make an assessment of whether or not these are vaccine failures or whether it is more about the kinds of cases that are occurring, the milder end of cases and then the timing of the cases relative to when individuals received doses.’ 

A medic injects the first dose of the Chinese Covid 19 vaccine produced by Sinopharm at the Seychell

A medic injects the first dose of the Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine at the Seychelles Hospital in Victoria, on January 10, 2021.

Significant doubts have been raised over the efficacy and safety data of China’s vaccines.

The lack of transparency in the safety data of China’s vaccine producers, Sinopharm and Sinovac, which use an inactivated form of the virus, was highlighted in a British Medical Journal (BMJ) article in April. It stated that ‘no phase III trial data for any of the Chinese vaccine candidates have been published in a peer reviewed journal’. 

The WHO approved the Chinese state-owned Sinopharm vaccine for emergency use on May 7. It estimated overall efficacy rate for both symptomatic and hospitalised disease at 79 per cent compared to the manufacturer’s claim of 86 per cent.

This was despite concerns raised in the ‘evidence assessment’ document prepared by WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts citing ‘very low confidence’ in the quality of the safety data provided by Sinopharm, specifically in terms of risk of serious adverse events.

Its decision to give emergency use approval also cleared the way for Sinopharm to be included in COVAX, the global programme to distribute vaccines among poorer nations. On June 1, the WHO approved the Sinovac vaccine for emergency use, despite an alarmingly low-efficacy rate of just 51 per cent.  

A possible correlation could be made between the use of these Chinese made vaccines and the subsequent Covid-19 outbreaks we’re seeing in Namibia, Zimbabwe, Gabon, Congo and parts of Latin America. 

On March 19, 2021, the Namibian government began the roll out of its vaccination programme, thanks to the arrival of the Sinopharm vaccines donated by the Chinese government.  

If you take a look at Namibia’s new Covid cases, you see cases rose after the rollout, peaking at 3,268 infections on June 30, 2021, around five time its pre-rollout peak of 608 cases on December 31, 2020.    

Zimbabwe received its first donation of 200,000 doses of Sinopharm back in February.

The group Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights threatened to take the government to court if it did not conduct clinical trials before offering it to the public.  

Like Namibia, Zimbabwe had a relatively low number of cases before and immediately after the vaccines arrived, followed by a sudden surge from June 2021 onwards.  

Zimbabwe vaccination

Residents wait to get vaccinated in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Like the Seychelles, Zimbabwe has seen a surge in cases after vaccination began.

Some important questions need to be raised. Could there be a link between the arrival of this vaccine and the subsequent surge in Covid cases?

Nick Hudson, founder of the Pandemics, Data & Analytics (PANDA) group of experts, spoke exclusively to NewsAfrica on this matter:  

‘The startling surges we’ve seen in so many countries coinciding with the inception of mass vaccination rollouts represents one off the most under-reported features of the pandemic,’ the South African mused.

‘Mainstream media – quite clearly projecting a controlled narrative – sticks with the Big Pharma playbook, pretending the phenomenon does not exist. Many on social media can be seen running with the ridiculous trope that “they were so unlucky to catch it in the vaccination queue”.' 

‘There is clearly something else at play, perhaps linked to observed immunosuppression in the days after vaccination.’ 

It’s a view echoed by Dr Clare Craig, a UK-based consultant pathologist, who is worried that the vaccines may be causing ‘immune suppression’ in some recipients.

‘Vaccines were sold as a panacea that would put an end to Covid but, unfortunately, they were oversold,’ said Craig.

‘Many scientific papers have demonstrated an increased risk of Covid in the first two or three weeks after vaccination.'

'This could be due to immune suppression where the immune system is so busy attacking your own cells expressing the vaccine-induced spike protein that it fails to protect you against the real thing.'  

‘The high rates of shingles post vaccination supports this theory as it is another example of the immune system failing to keep a virus at bay in the first few weeks after vaccination. This phenomenon may affect the measures of how effective vaccines are after the first few weeks as once you’ve had Covid you are unlikely to catch it again.’ 

Like a lot of experts, Craig is concerned that the world’s most heavily vaccinated regions are seeing an exponential spread of the disease.

‘This has been seen in Gibraltar, the Seychelles and Malta and cases are rising rapidly again in Israel.'

'There remains evidence of a reduction in hospitalisations and deaths from vaccination but, like influenza vaccines, these vaccines do not seem to reduce cases. Given that they only alter the immune response once the virus is in the blood stream this is unsurprising. The arguments for vaccinating children and for vaccine passports have no benefit when these vaccines do not prevent cases.’ 

Another factor to consider are the new ‘variants of concern’, in particular the Delta variant which was first identified in India in December 2020 and later became the dominant strain in the UK.  

Microbiologist Sharon Peacock, executive director and chair of the Covid-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) consortium, stated in a recent Reuter’s article that ‘the biggest risk to the world at the moment is simply Delta,’ calling it the ‘fittest and fastest variant yet’.   

The article went on to reveal that, according to interviews with 10 leading Covid-19 experts, ‘evidence is mounting that the Delta variant is capable of infecting fully vaccinated people at a greater rate than previous versions, and concerns have been raised that they may even spread the virus’ – a hypothesis that might explain why the Seychelles has been unable to control the virus. 

In December 2020, Israel embarked on a national campaign to vaccinate its population, exclusively using the Pfizer mRNA-based vaccine.

By April, 19, 2021, 88 per cent of Israeli adults over 50 had received two doses.  

From March 2021 onwards, Israel reported a rapid decline in Covid-19 cases across all age groups.

This was reported against the backdrop of the easing of lockdown restrictions and reopening of education and commerce. Israel was looked upon by the rest of the world as a model for vaccine effectiveness and its Covid vaccination campaign was heralded as a success and a way out of the pandemic.

However, looking at the data from July, Israel has, surprisingly, seen a significant uptick in cases.  

Covid 19 vaccine

A Covid-19 vaccine.

Eran Segal, the Israeli government’s Covid advisor revealed in early July that ‘56 per cent of current serious Covid cases occur among fully-vaccinated individuals’.

The statement threw doubt on Pfizer’s clinical trial data, which had initially claimed an efficacy rate of up to 95 per cent at preventing symptomatic disease.

Even more concerning, data released by the Israeli Health Ministry in late-July suggested that people vaccinated in January had just 16 per cent protection against infection.  

Meanwhile on July 15, the Lancet medical journal published a study that showed a significant trend of declining spike-antibody levels over time for both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines, proving that the effectiveness of the vaccines was waning.  

Studies like this could help explain why we’re seeing a surge of cases amongst the vaccinated, particularly with the rise of the Delta variant.

It also emboldens the case for those who advocate a third vaccine dose and the possibility of a regular Covid vaccine booster programme.

Pfizer’s CEO, Albert Bourla, announced that a third vaccine dose would likely be needed within 12 months. 

On August 1, Israel became the first country to distribute a third dose of the Covid-19 vaccine to anyone over 60. Neither the EU or the US have recommended a third shot, yet.  

Just a few days prior to the Israeli move, Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor to the US president, made a shock announcement to MSNBC further undermining the vaccines.

He told the news channel that ‘when you look [at] the level of virus in the nasal pharynx of a vaccinated person who gets a breakthrough infection with Delta, it’s exactly the same as the level of virus in an unvaccinated person who’s infected’.  

The level of virus or viral load is a measurement of how many copies of the coronavirus are in a patient's body.

The higher it is in an individual, the more likely they’re able to pass it on, meaning double vaccinated people are just as likely to spread the virus as unvaccinated people.

Recent CDC data from the US found that in Barnstable County, Massachusetts, 74 per cent of those who tested positive for Covid-19 and four out of five people hospitalised with Covid were double-vaccinated.   

The findings have been echoed in the UK, where Public Health England announced that ‘levels of virus in those who have become infected with Delta having already been vaccinated may be similar to levels found in unvaccinated people’. 

Even more worryingly, recent figures coming from Israel have shown that the percentage of people getting the virus in each age group is almost identical to the percentage vaccinated in each age group, suggesting the double vaccinated are no better protected from the virus than unvaccinated Israelis.

While government scientists interviewed by the media blame the apparent ‘vaccine failures’ on new variants and waning antibodies, some scientists are offering up another explanation of why we’re seeing vaccine failure: antibody dependent enhancement (ADE).

This is where an imperfect vaccine causes a virus to become more dangerous by giving rise to more virulent strains.  

After experiments were done at the Pirbright Institute in the UK studying vaccines for the highly contagious Marek’s disease virus (MDV) that affects chickens, the researchers concluded that the vaccines were imperfect or leaky.  

Their experiments showed that ‘direct vaccination of birds or vaccination of parent hens makes possible the onward transmission of viral strains otherwise too lethal to transmit, and thus those unvaccinated individuals are put at increased risk of severe disease and death’. 

The inventor of the mRNA technology used in the Covid-19 vaccines, Dr Robert Malone, told NewsAfrica he was worried that the risks of these vaccines might outweigh the benefits.

‘In the Security and Exchange Commission filings for both Pfizer and Moderna, there’s explicit statements that acknowledge that these are gene therapy-based [vaccines] and the FDA perceives them as such.’

He added: ‘In a conventional vaccine you can precisely calculate how much protein goes into your shoulder because it’s fixed and predictable, but in the case of these genetic vaccines you can’t.’ 

Malone believes the post-rollout surges seen in many countries around the world could be due to the imperfect vaccines causing the ‘reactivation of latent viral infection’ in recipients who had previously had the virus. He warned that you can’t produce a new vaccine, which ‘normally takes a decade’, in just nine months ‘and not cut corners’.

Only time will tell whether the rest of Africa will experience the same post-vax swell as the Seychelles and various other parts of the world. 

Many scientists believe governments should pay more heed to the vaccine manufacturers’ own admission that their vaccines are not designed to prevent infection but rather lessen symptoms, and should therefore warn double-vaccinated citizens that they are not ‘immune’ and should still take precautions.

Others argue against relying solely on vaccines as the way out of the pandemic, when there are proven treatments like Ivermectin that have been shown to reduce symptoms, the length of infection and, it is believed, the spread of the virus, too.

Eighteen months on, one thing is for certain, we’re still no closer to having important questions answered surrounding this novel virus or indeed the vaccines designed to curb it.

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