Coronavirus Chronicle in Moldova: Vaccination Is Close

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Marina DRAGALIN Despite the decrease in the number of patients with coronavirus, the situation in Moldova remains difficult. Experts predict another epidemic outbreak at the end of January and link it with new virus strains. In these conditions, great hopes are pinned on the promised vaccination start in February In 2021, the UN predicts the worst humanitarian crisis in 75 years. At the same time, according to Secretary General Antonio Guterres, COVID-19 has become the “Fifth Apocalyptic Horseman”, who together with other “horsemen” - geopolitical tensions, climate change, global mistrust and abuse of new technologies - created the greatest humanitarian challenge since World War II. Meanwhile, COVID-19 is really in no hurry to give up positions. Mutations only complicate the situation: in addition to those found in the UK and South Africa, two more new strains have been discovered in the US state of Ohio. According to experts, the second year of the pandemic might be more difficult than the first one. This, in particular, said Michael Ryan, the director of the emergency program of the World Health Organization: "We are entering pandemic’s second year, and it may turn out to be even more difficult, given the dynamics of the coronavirus spread and some of problems that we are seeing." He stressed as well that data on the last 2 weeks incidence indicates a new peak in the infection spread. To date, nearly 95 million people have tested positive for coronavirus. About 750 thousand people fall ill every day. Most of all infections occur in Europe, North and South America. The mortality rate holds at 3%. More than 2 million people have already died from COVID-19 and its consequences. Another world anti-mortality record was broken on January 13, when more than 16.5 thousand patients died per day. Against this backdrop, WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus is calling for massive vaccinations around the world in the next few months. First of all, this applies to medical workers and the population who are at high risk. Ghebreyesus has also asked vaccine manufacturers to promptly provide the necessary data so that WHO can consider adding their drugs to the emergency recommended list. WHO is currently working with the Chinese COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers Sinovac and Sinopharm for this purpose; so is the Indian Serum Institute, which produces vaccines developed by Novovax, the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca. What’s the vaccination to be like in Moldova? According to the authorities, Moldova will receive the first batch of vaccine against COVID-19 by the end of January. For 20% of the population this vaccine will be free through the COVAX mechanism. Additionally, Moldova requested doses for another 30% of the population at a reduced price through the Cost-Sharing COVAX program. In parallel, our country is waiting for a certain vaccine amount as a donation from the EU and other countries. “In total, our goal is to ensure that 70% of the population is vaccinated,” Tatiana Zatyk, Secretary of State under the Ministry of Health, Labor and Social Protection said. It should be noted that cold chain requirements for vaccine transportation across the country will also be met by the end of January, when the purchased freezers with a -20 and -70 degree storage temperature are expected to arrive. In addition, the National Emergency Public Health Commission has already approved a COVID-19 immunization plan developed with support from WHO, the European Center for Disease Control and UNICEF. The document defines components of the national COVID-19 vaccination strategy and describes the general process of organizing the procedure. Vaccinations will be provided free of charge. Before the injection, a person will sign an agreement and will be informed about possible side effects. Each vaccinated person will be given a corresponding certificate. The first stage vaccination is meant for health workers, as well as social assistance recipients; the second will cover adults over 60 years, persons with underlying diseases, public order, defense, security and the penitentiary system employees. During the third stage, the general population will be immunized, regardless of age, which was not included before. The authorities guarantee that all vaccines imported into Moldova will be approved and will provide the highest safety and efficacy, and in the event of side effects, a vaccinated person will have free access to medical services and social protection guarantees. Waiting for the vaccine Until mass vaccination is launched in the country, talking about success on the coronavirus front is not possible. Despite the recent positive disease dynamics - the number of recoveries exceeds the number of detected cases - the epidemiological situation remains unfavorable. In this regard, it was decided to extend the public health emergency until  February15. Moreover, the authorities expect a new peak in the coming days, and in this case, Moldova will return to tighter restrictions. "We expect a new wave of infections, taking into account that there were winter holidays, many fellow citizens came from abroad to celebrate them in the circle of relatives and friends. We do not exclude a new wave of infection in the next 10-14 days, given the virus incubation period. Therefore, authorities are closely monitoring the daily rates of new infections, and if their number increases, we will have to return to some stricter restrictions," Aureliu Ciocoi, acting Prime Minister stressed. It's worth noting that over the past few weeks, the number of new coronavirus cases has dropped significantly. By comparison, if about 1700 patients were detected per day last November-December, then since December 25 this figure has never surpassed the 1000 cases mark. This recession gave a good and necessary respite to the health care system: burden on medical staff decreased and vacant beds were available. Therefore, the projected increase in the number of cases does not look critical, since there is a hospital reserve in institutions throughout the country. For reference: To date, more than 152 thousand people have been diagnosed with a new type of coronavirus in Moldova, almost 142 thousand recovered, and 3228 people died.