Covid-19 - Seychelles prepares plan for Pfizer jabs for 12-17 year olds |27 August 2021
By Elsie Pointe
The Public Health Authority of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education is ready to roll out the Pfizer vaccination programme for 12 to 17 year olds in Seychelles in the coming weeks, a top health official has confirmed.
Seychelles is set to receive a total of 31,000 doses of the US- manufactured Pfizer vaccine through the Covax facility and these are slated to reach our shores around September 5.
There is an estimated 7,000 youths in the 12 to 17 years age range that could potentially be getting their vaccines soon.
In a press conference yesterday, Dr Sanjeev Pugazhendhi, a member of the National Technical Working Committee, said that plans are already underway to kick off Covid-19 vaccination a few days following the arrival of the Pfizer vaccine.
The vaccination programme for adolescents in secondary and post secondary schools is expected to complement the country’s vaccination programme for its adult population which started earlier this year in January.
Over 70,000 persons aged 18 years and above have already received two doses of the Covid-19 vaccines available in Seychelles which are Covishield, Sinopharm and Sputnik V.
This is the first time that age group 12 to 17 years in Seychelles will receive a Covid-19 vaccine as they were ineligible for the three vaccines mentioned above.
Dr Sanjeev noted that the Public Health Authority has determined that the benefits of administering the Pfizer vaccine to adolescents outweigh the any potential risks of the vaccine.
“There is evidence that there is a high rate of infections among adolescents and it is important to understand that many of these infections go undetected because adolescents do not always present with symptoms and as such they could be potential drivers of transmissions in the community without our knowledge,” explained Dr Sanjeev.
“It is important to look at the options to help reduce that and one of these options, in addition to the public health measures, is offering them vaccination.”
Dr Sanjeev further explained that adolescents are not immune to Covid-19 infections, with some having had to be hospitalised after contracting the virus.
“There are also issues around complications of Covid that are unique to adolescents and young adults; one of these is the multi-system inflammatory syndrome and this is a very serious condition. Many children need ICU admission and more than half die from it if they get it. It is also known that children do get long Covid where a child who catches the virus might have persistent symptoms even months later,” he stated.
By vaccinating adolescents in Seychelles, the Public Health Authority hopes to also reduce secondary infections of parents and the elderly, reduce school interruptions, interruptions to parents’ work and ease the burden on the local health system.
Globally, Pfizer is presently the only Covid-19 vaccine being made available to adolescents and countries such as the United States and the UK have started vaccinating this age group.
It is an mRNA vaccine that requires two shots taken 21 days apart and recently received full approval from the United States’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Due to the fact that the Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored at minus 70˚ Celsius, Dr Sanjeev reassured the public that the Ministry of Health is able to meet the cold chain requirements since it has procured equipment for ultra cold storage.
As of this week and the next, parents are expected to receive a consent form to allow their children to take the Covid-19 vaccines, along with a letter from the principal secretary of health and an information sheet on the Pfizer vaccine.
Although the vaccination is not mandatory, parents will have to fill in the consent form whether or not they consent to having their kids take the jab.
Brigite Labonte, health promotion coordinator at the Ministry of Education, noted that the primary role of the ministry and its schools is to facilitate the vaccination process.
“The fact that this vaccine is being administered at schools means that there are a lot of logistics we have to cater to, and we have ensured that our staff is well informed and held various meetings. The first step has been to ensure that the consent forms reach the school and distribute information fliers which parents should receive by tomorrow [today, August 27],” stated Mrs Labonte.
The deadline for submission is September 6 and Mrs Labonte added that arrangements have been made for private schools, most of which are currently in holiday.
Parents who have yet to receive their documents should contact the respective schools and children who are not enrolled in an educational institution should call 4388061 for assistance.
“We are urging parents to be cooperative; it is a new vaccine, schools are mobilising but Covid-19 makes things doubly challenging for us because we have to make sure that public health measures are being observed while the vaccination is ongoing,” added Mrs Labonte.
Around eight to ten teams of health professionals and volunteers are to be mobilised for this mass vaccination in schools.
The Pfizer vaccine has a shelf life of about five months which means that there is a limited window of time for adolescents to get their vaccine and Dr Sanjeev noted that it is yet uncertain when Seychelles might procure more similar Covid-19 vaccine for children who gradually enter this age range.