Coronavirus Chronicle in Moldova: Vaccine Fever

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Marina DRAGALIN Global trends within the COVID-19 vaccine market strongly affect the COVAX mechanismwork, a mechanism the Moldovan vaccination plan directly depends on. There has recently been a decrease in the rate of new COVID-19 cases detectionat the global level. Heaven knows how long-lasting and sustainable this trend is to be, but within two weeks the number of detected coronavirus cases decreased on average by more than 100 thousand per day. At the same time, the total number of infected continues growing and has already passed the 102 million mark. The steady increase in fatalities remains alarming as well. Since October, the number of coronavirus deaths per day has increased on average 3 times. Today, the COVID-19 death rate keeps holding at 3%. More than 2.2 million people died in total. It is no surprise that against this background, a tense situation continues persisting in countries with a high incidence rate. These include, in particular, European countries, where new strains emergence and difficulties with vaccination escalate the situation and lead to new tightening. Thus, due to the pandemic, the UK is extending quarantine restrictions until March 8,at least. "I and we all know that there are 37,000 people in hospitals suffering from COVID, and the infection rate is still prohibitive, and we all need to be careful," British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said. Lithuania has announced quarantine extension and travel restrictions until almost the end of February, but the government is considering easing as there is a trend towards deaths from COVID-19reduction. The Norwegian government is now closing the borders "to everyone who does not live in the country." In France, where restrictions and curfews are already in force, the population fears the third lockdown introduction in the near future: it became known that the government is considering a "very strict quarantine" option. A quick mass vaccination was supposed to give respite and "quench" the pandemic. However, something did not go to the plan. "Vaccine fever" is taking over the world. The governments that funded vaccines development primarily give injections to their citizens. Other countries are fighting over doses. Manufacturers wait for lucrative contracts and wind up the market, disrupting the delivery schedule. International organizations are sounding the alarm. Demand is tens of times greater than vaccines supply and production capacity. Against this background, the unhealthy excitement was something temporary. The less prosperous countries will suffer the most. They will have to wait for deliveries through the global COVAX mechanism and pay more. Suffice it to cite South Africa’s example; it pays € 4.32 per one Astra Zeneca dose – 2.5 times more than European countries. The UN has already resented this situation. “This is vaccine apartheid, this is discrimination. It's embarrassing to see rich countries argue over vaccine among themselves distribution, while other countries sit and watch. I consider it to be a shame!” Winnie Byanyima organization’s representative said. WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus argues that the large-scale vaccination plan in 92 countries to be completed by the end of this year could fail. The global COVAX mechanism has raised more than 1.65 billion euros. The major contribution was made by Great Britain and Canada, another 3.3 billion euros were promised by the Biden administration. However, € 29 billion are required to pay for those 2 billion doses secured from five vaccine producers. "Bilateral deals between countries and companies jeopardize the COVAX promise. At least 56 bilateral vaccine agreements have been signed, which fragment the market, force countries to compete and raise prices," the WHO chief said. Considering global trends, the COVAX mechanism really risks failing. Experts already speculate that 70% of the population needs to be vaccinated to develop global herd immunity, and COVAX will vaccinate one out of eight billion people at best. "I think it would be naive to describe COVAX as a representative of colonized countries, to whom we throw crumbs off the table. Without COVAX, these countries will never be able to get adequate, prompt and timely access to vaccines," Danish political scientist Jacob Kirkegaard says. For Moldova, the COVAX functionality is of fundamental importance. The national vaccination plan is designed to receive doses exactly through this mechanism which will provide a free batch for 20% of the population and a paid one for another 30% of the population. If this WHO initiative fails, the only source of vaccine for our republic in the near future will be only humanitarian aid from other countries. Of particular concern are active negotiations with Romania. A few days ago, a delegation from Bucharest arrived in Chisinau to discuss the technical and legal details of the COVID-19 vaccine batch delivery. Most likely, talks about supplies from Russia continue. Meanwhile, in the heat of the vaccine struggle it should be noted that the natural herd immunity in the country is quite possibly under way. The steadily decreasing figures for the number of new cases since the end of December can be explained by the high proportion of people with antibodies among the population. This is evidenced by the absence of large foci and long transmission chains. In addition, as statistics shows, the official cases of successful recoveries might be safely added by at least the same number (or even more) of those who have recovered asymptomatically or without seeking medical aid. All these facts can slightly benefit Moldova's situation, which, obviously, cannot cover all vaccine needs, whatever steps are taken. For reference: To date, more than 152 thousand coronavirus cases have been reported in Moldova, with 148 thousand recoveries and 3413 deaths.