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Vaccination and political games. Op-Ed by Victor Pelin


https://www.ipn.md/public/index.php/en/vaccination-and-political-games-op-ed-by-victor-pelin-7978_1080320.html


“The political games around the pandemic and political crisis are disgusting and do damage to the public health and the image of the political forces that caused and maintain the dispute between the presidential administration and the parliamentary groups. The evolution of the pandemic and economic crisis remains uncertain. The PSRM-Shor majority managed to undermine the relations with the main partners of the Republic of Moldova. That’s why the perpetuation of this majority in power risks compromising the finding of solutions for overcoming the pandemic and economic crisis.   ”
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Financial resources for immunizing citizens

Health experts are unanimous as to the most efficient measures for fighting the COVID-19 pandemic – mass vaccination of the population. The main principles of the governmental policy concerning mass vaccination are free and voluntary immunization. Three major problems hamper the efficient implementation of the policy to immunize the population of the Republic of Moldova: insufficient financial resources and dependence on the support of international organizations; the people’s principally negative attitude to vaccination and the Moldovan political class’s irresponsibly.

The problem of mass immunization of the population came into the focus together with the spread of COVID-19 in Europe and America in the middle of 2020, when the competition of the great vaccine producers for inventing, testing, obtaining the authorization and selling the given products appeared. In such circumstances, it was evident that one of the key tasks of the Moldovan Government was to obtain the necessary quantities of vaccine from the supplies of international organizations and by commercial ways. In this regard, estimates were to be made and the funds needed for purchasing the vaccine were to be budgeted. Currently, as the Ministry of Health, Labor and Social Protection said, the resources for buying the vaccine were identified in different finds:

  • 5 million lei in the mandatory health insurance funds, earmarked for national and special health protection program;
  • 10 million lei in the Reserve Fund of the National Health Insurance Company;
  • 60 million lei in the Government’s Reserve Fund;
  • ~116 million lei in the Government’s Intervention Fund (article 3(b))

The Ministry of Health considers other funds for purchasing the COVID-19 vaccine can also be attracted. It goes to the sum of 212 million lei that was negotiated and approved through a project of the Council of Europe Development Bank and the sum of $30 million for purchasing the vaccine in the framework of a World Bank project.

Given the Ministry of Health’s estimates, the Republic of Moldova actually has about 900 million lei for buying the vaccine. 191 million lei is available in the state budget, while the other 720 million lei can be obtained with the involvement of international organizations.

Pace of vaccination

Under the COVID-19 National Immunization Plan, the National Public Health Agency intends to immunize 70% of the population of the Republic of Moldova. The financial resources estimated above are enough to acquire approximately 5 million doses of vaccine at the price of $10 per dose. This is enough for achieving the goal set by the National Public Health Agency. But the polls carried out under the auspices of the Ministry of Health show that only 31% of the country’s population wants to be vaccinated. That’s why very difficult explicative work needs to be conducted in relation to ~40% of the population given the aggressive propaganda conducted through all ways during a year by so-called “COVID dissidents”. 

The pace of immunization using the vaccines existing in the country is absolutely unsatisfactory. The vaccination campaign in Moldova started on March 2, 2021 and about 10,000 health workers were immunized during ten days. At such a pace, the vaccination of 70% of the population could last for about four years. For the sake of truth, it should be noted that the immunization situation is difficult even in some of the states that produce vaccines. For example, only ~5% of the population was immunized with the first dose only in Russia during two months since the start of the immunization campaign, ~4% - in the People’s Republic of China. Among the absolute champions in terms of the pace of immunization are: Israel ~100%, the United Arab Emirates ~65%, the UK ~36% and the U.S. ~31%. In the European Union, ~12% of the population had been vaccinated by mid-March.

Involvement of the political factor

Amid the pandemic crisis, the political forces in the Republic of Moldova continue the dispute as to the way in which the political crisis can be overcome – dissolution of Parliament and holding of snap parliamentary elections vs. investing of a transitional government. In this connection, the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova (PSRM) updated its priorities. Among these is the dissolution of Parliament, but this will be possible only after the epidemiological situation is stabilized and the population is provided with COVID-19 vaccines. What is curios is that three months ago, in December 2020, when the leaders of the PSRM organized the resignation of the own Government, with the intention of inducing snap parliamentary elections, the number of infections with COVID-19 was of over 37,000. Now, in the middle of March 2021, the number of infections is of about 18,000. So, during three months of the governmental chaos, the infection rate returned to the level witnessed when the governmental crisis was caused. The question is, who is yet to blame for the political crisis caused amid the pandemic? It probably goes to the PSRM’s mistaken calculations and its change of attitude.

Based on group interests, the parliamentary majority of the PSRM and the Shor Party strengthened itself and is ready to work for two more years, until the mandate of the current Parliament expires, in February 2023. A conclusive proof is the adoption of the Statement on the political armistice in front of the humanitarian crisis caused by the pandemic, which provides that: 70% of the country’s population is to be immunized during the next 12 months; the foreign assistance is to be unlocked; measures are to be taken to support the business community and keep jobs, etc. We noted above that:  at the current immunization pace, 70% of the population can be immunized during four-five years.

There is one more factor that makes the organization of snap elections this year almost impossible – the lack of financial resources for holding snap elections. A sum of 120 million lei is needed for the purpose and such an amount hasn’t been budgeted. The Government’s Reserve Fund of ~161 million lei could be used for the purpose, but the Government decided to spend 60 million lei for purchasing 330,000 doses of vaccine, even if the Intervention Fund could have been used for the purpose as it was constituted to be used in case of pandemics, etc. Here is a relevant proof:    

  • The Reserve Fund (par. 5) is to be used to finance budget costs that meet the following eligibility criteria: a) are urgent in character; b) occur during the year and could not be envisioned for being allocated funds; c) the budgets approved for the public authorities do not contain reserves.
  • The Intervention Fund (par. 6) is to be used to finance urgent costs associated with the alleviation of the consequences of natural disasters, in case of pandemics and in other exceptional situations of a technogen, natural and biological-social (contagious diseases, mass poisoning etc.) character.
This way, the PSRM-Shor majority has a reason to celebrate by asserting that the holding of snap parliamentary elections in 2021 is impossible owing to the shortage of funds.



Conclusions

The mass vaccination of the population is an imperative. The budget funds and the financial resources that are to be obtained from international organizations would be enough to ensure a proper immunization pace. The unwillingness of the absolute majority of the population to be vaccinated remains the biggest problem in the immunization process.

The political games around the pandemic and political crisis are disgusting and do damage to the public health and the image of the political forces that caused and maintain the dispute between the presidential administration and the parliamentary groups.

The evolution of the pandemic and economic crisis remains uncertain. The PSRM-Shor majority managed to undermine the relations with the main partners of the Republic of Moldova. That’s why the perpetuation of this majority in power risks compromising the finding of solutions for overcoming the pandemic and economic crisis.