First batch of U.S. coronavirus vaccine arrives in Moldova

BUCHAREST (AP) — The first 150,000 doses of a planned 500,000-dose batch of Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine arrived in Moldova’s capital Monday as part of a donation from the United States that will help the former Soviet republic tackle the pandemic.

The U.S.-made J&J vaccine, which requires only one dose for full protection, is part of the U.N.-backed COVAX program that is shipping coronavirus vaccines to poor countries to help combat the global pandemic.

After the vaccine arrived in Chisinau, President Maia Sandu wrote online: “I urge you to get vaccinated. The danger of getting sick hasn’t passed yet, and life and health are priceless.”

Sandu thanked the U.S. for the donation and said the vaccine will “help save lives” and “reduce the force of the pandemic.”

Moldova, which is Europe’s poorest nation landlocked between Ukraine and Romania, has so far administered more than 800,000 vaccine doses. But only 313,000 people have received the necessary doses to be fully inoculated against the coronavirus — about 11% of the country’s 3.5 million people.

The first J&J batch arrived a day after a snap parliamentary elections in Moldova that saw the pro-reform Party of Action and Solidarity decisively win with nearly 53% of the votes, against 27% for its rival bloc of Communists and Socialists.

The pro-Western president said Moldovans “must mobilize” and “in solidarity, get vaccinated.”

The U.S. Embassy in Moldova has said that it has so far donated more than $4 million (€3.3 million) of pandemic-related assistance to the small nation. Neighboring Romania has also donated COVID-19 aid to the country.

Since the pandemic began, Moldova has reported more than 257,000 coronavirus infections and more than 6,200 deaths from COVID-19.