How one Moldovan town achieved a COVID vaccination rate more than twice the national average. From Ziarul de Garda. 

While the vaccination campaign has been progressing at a slow pace throughout Moldova, the latest Ministry of Health data shows that about 70% of the inhabitants are vaccinated in Stauceni, a suburb of Chisinau. This figure compares to the vaccination rate in many large cities in the European Union.

ZdG reporters asked decision makers and ordinary people in Stauceni to explain the formula of this success.

Moldova started its immunization process against COVID-19 in March 2021, and so far the country is at the bottom of Europe’s vaccination rankings, at just over 30% of the population.

“Most people understand that we have to get vaccinated, because if we don’t, we’re at risk”

“Look at what’s being done around the globe. I talked it over with my wife, daughter, and son and decided to get vaccinated – two doses, and we are waiting now for the third one, the booster, maybe they will call me,” says Nicolae, the first resident of Stauceni we meet in the street. He is sure that vaccination is necessary because the pandemic has affected the entire world. But he confirms that the decision to get vaccinated was influenced by those around him: “Everyone convinced me: TV, radio, the family doctor and relatives. And I think it’s thanks to the mayor that we are the most vaccinated in the country,” he explains.

Another passerby, Elena, says that concern for her own health and those around her motivated her to get vaccinated. “First of all, to keep ourselves and the people around us healthy. In Stauceni we are the most immunized because most people who live here understand that we have to get vaccinated, because if we don’t get the vaccine, we are in danger,” she says.

Other locals in the town of 9,000 admit that although they don’t fully agree with vaccination, they got the shot so that they can travel to other countries. “That’s what you need as a travel ticket, otherwise you can’t go anywhere. And I think that in Stauceni there are so many vaccinated people because the people who live here are very aware of that. And there are many like me, who need this travel pass,” Vitalie confesses.

“We wanted to visit our children abroad, that’s why we got vaccinated, otherwise we wouldn’t have done it,” another Stauceni resident admitted.

“People here are used to getting information only from credible, truthful sources, and they ignore all kinds of manipulation or fake news”

We asked Stauceni Mayor Alexandru Vornicu about the significant vaccination rate in the community he manages. “First of all, the mayor’s office has communicated the need to get vaccinated through all possible sources of information, in a clear and strong way, and using arguments. Together with our colleagues from the health center, they have been constantly phoning all the people in the phone book and encouraging them to get vaccinated,” Vornicu says.

Alexandru Vornicu

As for the difficulties encountered with the information campaign, the mayor confirms that people were not receptive to it from the beginning. “There were difficulties, because there is obviously a certain category of people who are not supportive of the need for vaccination. There are people who consider vaccination to be unacceptable,” he says.

“I believe that the geographical location of Stauceni is also a factor that contributed to this vaccination rate, because we are a suburb of Chisinau. The quality of people is an important consideration. The people who live here are used to getting information only from credible, truthful sources and moreover they ignore all kinds of manipulations or fake news,” Vornicu explains.

Ludmila Pavlov, head of the Stauceni Health Center, reveals the peculiarities of the local vaccination drive: “The vaccination campaign was, from the start, a bit difficult. And we had to put in a lot of work in coming up with the most convincing arguments. Gradually, our population also became aware of the need to do it. And, on the other hand, we have a very good population, very informed, of high quality,” the specialist says.

Ludmila Pavlov

The health center fought against misinformation and reluctance to be vaccinated, Pavlov says. “We managed to convince people by talking with them, we talked with some people multiple times. Doctors also went to seminars and training sessions to learn about the benefits and advantages of vaccination. There are people who still have their own opinions about what is happening, but a large part of them also changed [their opinions],” she says.

“We have been an experimental area for an information war”

“I think one of the most important factors that mattered in the vaccination campaigns was trust, first of all in local authorities and in doctors. And we built a stronger foundation for trust in Stauceni. People were trusting, they encouraged each other, they were open and friendly [towards others] in the community, and this can be a positive example,” says Ala Tocarciuc, a public health expert.

Tocarciuc highlights the idea that people’s reluctance to get vaccinated is largely due to mass misinformation: “It is my opinion that we have been a kind of experimental area for an information war. The subject of vaccination has been among the instruments of this war, and many people have fallen victim to this misinformation. And because of this, there is opposition to vaccination and there is resistance,” she continues.

Ala Tocarciuc

The public health expert stresses the importance of vaccination in the context of the emergence of the new strains of COVID-19: “First of all, we should communicate openly and say that we are still far from being out of the pandemic. We have new strains coming in and spreading very quickly. As such, vaccination is one of the methods or one of the weapons that will help us protect ourselves.”

Written by Otilia Meica and Olga Bulat for the Moldovan news outlet ZdG. Photos and video by Igor Ionescu. Translated by Ioana Caloianu.