Coronavirus Chronicle in Moldova: The Third Wave Is Drifting Away but Vaccination Should Be Accelerated

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Marina DRAGALIN  Moldova was able to provide itself with the necessary vaccines volumes but so far it lags far behind in terms of vaccination campaign’s pace and is thus ranking the fourth from the bottom among European countries as to this indicator.  The World Health Organization records a slowdown within the new type of coronavirus spread: the number of new cases and deaths from COVID-19 has been declining for the second week. At the same time, WHO Director General Tedros Ghebreyesus emphasizes that despite the number of cases reduction, there is no talk about the pandemic end. The virus situation is still a matter of concern in many countries.  Thus, India continues beating anti-records in the number of deaths from coronavirus infection. About 2.5 thousand deaths are recorded per day in the country, whilst the total number of COVID-19 cases has exceeded 25 million people. Together with, more than 185 million people (13% of the population) have already been vaccinated in India.  In total, more than 165 million people in the world have positively tested for the new type of coronavirus; out of them 3.4 million died. Vaccination remains an effective way to combat the disease. However, according to the Head of WHO, the whole world is in a situation of "vaccine apartheid": forming only 15% of the world's population, high-income countries possess 45% of the world's vaccines.  Against this backdrop, Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund Henrietta Fore urged G7 countries to allocate surplus of the COVID-19 vaccines at their disposal to implement the COVAX program. Based on Airfinity’s research (research and development company), the expert noted that without prejudice to domestic immunization campaigns, the G7 countries could donate about 153 million doses if they shared at least 20% of their supplies in June, July and August. UNICEF's COVAX program manager estimates the vaccine supply gap to be 140 million doses by the end of May and about 190 million by the end of June. The deficit is caused, among other things, by the ban India imposed on exporting AstraZeneca, the vaccine it produces.  At the same time, vaccination will soon allow removing some of the restrictions introduced during the pandemic. So, the European Union is preparing to open borders for foreign tourists who are fully vaccinated against coronavirus (though when it comes to a vaccine certified by the EU). It is assumed that the ban on touristic travel will be lifted after the EU member states agree on the Vaccination Passport model.  After this news, many persons in Moldova began wondering whether our vaccination certificates would be recognized by Brussels and other countries. So far, the specialists of the Ministry of Health cannot give an unambiguous answer to this question, however, they note that the documents issued in Moldova contain all the necessary elements. According to statistics, more than 50% of the vaccine doses received by our country have already been used, and 34 thousand citizens have already received both doses of serum against COVID. At the same time, the Ministry of Health announced launching a full-scale universal vaccination.  In total, 785,770 doses have been delivered to our country. The highest level of immunization is in the capital - over 10% of the population. This is followed by Rezina, Floresti, Soroca, Riscani, Orhei districts and Balti municipality where about 8% of the population is vaccinated. Vaccination is progressing the worst in the Gagauz autonomy. Despite the fact that vaccines are now abundant, the government has finally started to think proactively and recently allocated money to purchase another 700,000 Pfizer doses. This batch will tentatively arrive in the republic in September-October.  Unfortunately, at the moment Moldova is quite far behind in terms of the vaccination campaign pace, ranking fourth among the countries in Europe with the lowest vaccination rates. The situation is worse only in Ukraine, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Belarus. However, in countries such as North Macedonia, Albania or Montenegro, where vaccination started almost simultaneously with Moldova, things are much better.  Insufficient rates of vaccination against coronavirus are also recognized by the Ministry of Health. They note that in order to immunize 70% of the population by the end of the year, almost twice as many people need to be vaccinated per week than is happening now. The department is considering several options to speed up the process, including opening new vaccination centers in popular places (like markets), holding immunization marathons, etc.  Some experts and officials are sure the slow progress of the vaccination campaign is due to poor process organization. This, in particular, was stated by the presidential adviser on health issues Ala Nemerenco. "Today, the Ministry must bring the vaccine as close to people as possible. There are types of vaccines that are used in very small quantities in some areas. At the same time, the Health Ministry's website fails to update data on the vaccines they have, because a number of vaccines have already received WHO approval, and their website says "in progress". Being in the authorization process and already getting WHO approval are two different things. Since the vaccine has this certificate, it is considered effective and safe, and many people would choose this vaccine if this information was indicated on the website," Ala Nemerenco said during the program on JurnalTV.  The earliest possible vaccination of the population is perhaps the most urgent task right now. After months of delays, the country is finally provided with the necessary volumes of vaccine, and now it is important to ensure that it is delivered to the population in the fastest and most efficient way. The third wave of coronavirus is drifting away, but, as last year's experience shows, it is too early to relax. A new round of corona crisis around the globe cannot be ruled out, but this time, with the vaccinated population, Moldova can meet it head-on.