Seychelles celebrates 50 years of saving children’s lives through immunization

Seychelles celebrates 50 years of saving children’s lives through immunization

Seychelles celebrates 50 years of saving children’s lives through immunization

Seychelles celebrates 50 years of saving children’s lives through immunization

Matteo Pragassen is almost a year old and his mother, Diane Uranie, has brought him to the Beau Vallon health centre in Victoria, Seychelles’ capital, for his measles-mumps-rubella vaccination. Shortly after arrival, nurse Brigitte Mathiot deftly administers the shot, and it is all over. 

“As part of my postnatal care, the clinic advised of me of the different shots Matteo would have to take as he grows older that are necessary for protection against the various illnesses,” says Uranie. “I’m happy that he is getting the shots because it helps his body get immunity from diseases.” 

Routine childhood immunization is a key element of child health and survival services offered by the Ministry of Health in Seychelles. The immunization programme in Seychelles was formally established in 1974, with World Health Organization (WHO) support and celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, along with WHO’s Expanded Programme on Immunization. The programme has grown over the years to include 13 antigens. 

Seychelles has attained high vaccination coverage for essential childhood vaccines, reaching above 95% – which is optimal to avoid vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks in the population. In 2022, coverage for the first and third doses of the diphtheria–tetanus–pertussis-containing vaccine (DTP1 and DTP3, respectively) and the first dose of the measles-containing vaccine (MCV1) in the country was estimated at 99%, 97% and 98%, compared with a regional average of 80%, 72% and 69%, respectively. The country also weathered COVID-19 disruptions, with only a slight dip in coverage in 2021 which were restored to pre-pandemic levels the following year.  

There has also not been a single case of measles or rubella in the country for the last four years and immunization efforts have placed Seychelles on the track to become the first country in the African region to receive certification for measles elimination.

The last polio case recorded in Seychelles was in 1966 and the country has progressed towards achieving the global targets for polio eradication. The country obtained wild polio-free certification from WHO in September 2020. 

The success of the immunization programme is multi-faceted. Free and accessible child health services enables women to deliver at health facilities, ensuring that vaccines administered at birth are received in a timely manner. Immunization is also integrated into other child survival interventions and health workers educate mothers on the importance of immunization from the outset.

“We start promoting immunization with the mothers from the antenatal clinic appointments, right through birth and postnatal until when the children go to school,” says Mathiot. “Every visit we repeat the message and remind the mothers of the importance of immunization.” 

Seychelles’ stable economy and high-level political commitment have translated into sustainable financial resources and a dedicated a dedicated budget line for immunization that cannot be used for other interventions. High literacy rates and access to media and information facilitates widespread acceptance of vaccination among the population, as evidenced by the country’s success in COVID-19 vaccination. It was only one of four countries in the African region to vaccinate over 70% of the total population against COVID-19. 

“WHO commends the Government of Seychelles in its commitment childhood immunization,” says Dr Rex Mpazanje, WHO Representative in Seychelles. “The Organization was there 50 years ago when the country established the programme, we have continued to be there for the last five decades, and we look forward to being there as the country reaches even bigger milestones in its efforts to halt vaccine-preventable diseases.”

WHO has been a key partner of Seychelles in strengthening its immunization programme and ensuring that all children are protected from vaccine-preventable diseases. Over the years, the Organization has provided technical guidance and financial support for new vaccine introduction and to sustain high coverage of existing vaccines, supported the development, implementation and monitoring of national immunization policies, conducted regular training for health workers, donated medical equipment and supplies to ensure the quality and safety of vaccines and facilitated the exchange of experiences and lessons learned with other countries in the African region and beyond. 

Matteo will grow up protected against all vaccine-preventable diseases, due to the dedication of his mother and a well-established health system. “I understand why Matteo needs to have his shots as I had them as well and we all need to have them,” she says. “I wouldn’t want him to fall ill because we neglected to follow advice.” 

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of World Health Organization (WHO) – Seychelles.