Thursday

25th Feb 2021

Coronavirus

EU's fringe countries in struggle to get vaccines

  • Moldova, the poorest country in Europe, does not expect to get any vaccines before the end of February (Photo: Republic of Moldova health ministry/Facebook)

While in most of the EU the vaccination campaign is underway and frontline workers are already scheduled to receive a second dose, some non-EU countries have yet to get even a single Covid-19 vaccine.

Ukraine

Ukraine had concluded zero supply contracts by the start of 2021.

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  • Ukrainian officials announced an intention to acquire some two million doses of the Chinese CoronaVac vaccine - but only six percent of the Ukraine public have faith in it (Photo: Ukraine health ministry/Facebook)

Although healthcare ministerial officials recently offered up some promises that Ukraine might receive 117,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine in late February, the country's 40 million inhabitants will still remain unvaccinated.

The predicament comes after the decision to ban the Russian-made Sputnik V from use, as Ukrainian officials announced their intention to acquire some two million doses of the Chinese CoronaVac vaccine.

Even if it proves efficient, that is still a drop in the ocean in comparison to needs of the entire population - who remain sceptical towards the Chinese vaccine as much as to the Russian one.

Orysia Lutsevych, the head of Ukraine Forum, a think tank focused on policy analysis, told EUobserver that "public trust in the Chinese vaccine is very low, about six percent of the people would accept that being administered to them."

Ukraine's president, Volodimir Zelenski, believes that it is not his government but rich countries that are to blame for the situation. "The richest found themselves first in the global vaccine queue," he said in December.

The president went on to appeal the EU for more help and cooperation, as the country's deputy prime minister emphasised that it was not a matter of state competence, but of access to the vaccine.

However, opposition leaders plus some local experts believe that Zelenski and his team did not know how to handle the situation.

Olena Mykhailiuk, working in Kiev, said to EUobserver that public information regarding the start of the vaccination campaign was confusing. "I heard that the government might be trying to buy cheaper vaccines from China or elsewhere. I am not eager to vaccinate until positive proven data are made available."

Moldova

Europe's poorest country does not expect to get any vaccines before the end of February according to a press release issued by the health minister.

The situation is dire especially amongst frontline workers, as the Republic of Moldova has the highest infection rate in Europe amongst medical staff.

With a population of 2.6 million, Moldova expects to receive just over 200,000 doses, through UN's Covax program which aims to make vaccines available to poorer countries.

Georgia and Armenia are in a similar predicament.

Anush Hayrapetyan, living Yerevan, the capital city of Armenia, told EUobserver that citizens "have not been informed yet on when and how the vaccination will be done".

Ruzanna Baldryan, working for United Nations Development Programme Armenia, pointed out that Armenia's recent war with Azerbaijan has put the Covid-19 vaccine issue on the backburner -as the country is trying to deal with political turmoil.

Armand Gosu, an expert on Moldova and ex-Soviet countries, told EUobserver that "the fact the West hasn't already sent a couple of hundred thousand doses to Chisinau or Kiev is a strategic error which would only end up fuelling the Russian propaganda hammering on the idea that the West does not care about the East."

And the West is facing a predicament in counteracting any move by Moscow to send its Sputnik V vaccine: "The West does not have enough vaccines for its own population, so it does not consider sending vaccines to Kyiv, Chisinau or Tbilisi."

According to Gosu, both political leaders and public opinion in Ukraine, Moldova or Georgia are pro-West but without action "Ukrainians, Georgians, Moldovans are beginning to feel abandoned by the European Union."

Earlier last month a group of 13 foreign ministers from EU member states called on the European Commission to create a mechanism through which Covid-19 vaccines can be delivered to Eastern Partnership countries such as Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and Armenia.

"There is need for a strong and coordinated signal to highlight the strategic importance of the Eastern Partnership. Facilitating access to the vaccine would be such a signal", the open letter sent to Josep Borrell, EU's foreign affairs chief, as well as to the commissioners for both health and for neighbourhood and enlargement read.

Author bio

Cristian Gherasim is a freelance journalist contributing to EUobserver, Euronews, EU Reporter, Katoikos, Von Mises Institute, and bne IntelliNews, with a particular focus on European and regional affairs.

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