September 26, 2023
2:00 pm GMT+0100 - 3:30 pm GMT+0100
Event will be in Romanian language with translations into English and Russian.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many adults and children in Moldova missed routine vaccination. Before the pandemic struck, average immunization coverage for children in Moldova was higher than that of other countries in the European region. In 2019, about 91% of children in the country had received DPT 1 and DPT3. These percentages dropped to 84% and 86% in 2020. However, country averages of vaccine coverage, while useful, obscure sub-national realities. The National Immunization Program estimates that since the advent of the pandemic, about 5000 one-year olds miss out on being vaccinated each year. According to UNICEF’s 2023 report on the State of the World’s Children, there are about 4906 zero-dose children in Moldova. Zero-dose children are those who have not received a single dose of any vaccine.
While public awareness about routine immunization for children is widespread, the health benefits and necessity of immunization from birth and throughout adulthood is not, despite the availability of a range of essential vaccines to protect children, teens and adults from serious diseases. A large proportion of pregnant women, adults and the elderly remain unvaccinated against many vaccine-preventable, and potentially fatal, illnesses such as HPV induced cervical cancer, influenza and COVID-19. A concerning number of health workers are yet to take the Hepatitis B vaccine.
The COVID-19 pandemic eroded public confidence in vaccines in Moldova, owing to the misinformation surrounding vaccines in general that emerged worldwide. Concerns about vaccine safety and misinformation about vaccines persist across urban and rural populations, as well as among pregnant women, older adults and the elderly.
More than one out of 5 people in Moldova is over the age of 60 years and the country has a significant burden of heart disease and diabetes, with obesity – a major risk factor for both diseases – on the rise. Older adults and those with pre existing illnesses are likely to experience COVID-19 and influenza of greater severity, making the case for vaccinating against COVID-19, influenza and other infections a strong one. Yet, the uptake of vaccines against COVID-19 and influenza remains inadequate. (still trying to find data on flu vax uptake pre and post pandemic) there exists an urgent need to create actionable awareness of the evidence about health benefits of immunization, as health care professionals themselves can even misinform their clients because they lack accurate, up-to-date information about immunization.
Since May 2023, Moldova has been implementing localized catch up campaigns to restore childhood immunization to pre-pandemic levels with the help of community health workers and volunteers. Health caravans are helping take vaccines for all into communities, educating people and improving vaccine acceptance. However, immunization for teens, adults, pregnant women and the elderly, to protect against cervical cancer, Influenza, COVID-19 and other deadly diseases is yet to find a platform in the public health system.
Rebuilding and sustaining a clear understanding of the evidence about the value of vaccines and helping the public understand why experts recommend immunization throughout life is more urgent than ever before. In today’s Moldova with its aging population, where vaccine preventable diseases are on the comeback trail and the risk of novel epidemics is a sober reality, vaccines are as essential for a healthy lifestyle, as are nutrition, exercise, reducing stress and quitting smoking. Making vaccine literacy possible for all is crucial for public health.
Journalists need to lift up community concerns to decision-makers and educate their audiences, particularly older adults, about the risks of remaining unvaccinated. Journalists also need to explain the benefits of immunization throughout the life course to help audiences make informed choices about vaccination. With sustained, high quality explanatory journalism on health, the media can simultaneously build community capacity to digest and interpret health information. By promoting two-way communication and collaboration between the public, health actors and other trusted information providers journalists can drive the change needed to put childhood and adult immunization efforts back on track.
Join us to discuss these issues with a diverse panel of technical experts, community representatives and senior journalists! Event will be at 2:00 PM CET time! There will be time for a Q&A session.