Moldovan President Says Vaccines Diverted To Officials' Relatives, Authorities Investigate.

Moldovan President Maia Sandu has said that almost 700 doses of COVID-19 vaccines intended for health-care workers and the critically vulnerable have instead been diverted to public officials and family members, including employees of the Defense Ministry and regional authorities,
"A first dose of Pfizer-BioNTech has been given to 688 people in the 'relatives' category," Sandu told Moldova's Jurnal TV on March 31. Moldova, one of Europe's poorest countries, has lagged behind the rest of the continent in the vaccination campaign and welcomed donations from friendly governments. The first batch of 14,400 doses of Pfizer vaccines from the global COVAX scheme arrived in Moldova last month. So far, the country of 4.5 million has received 110,970 doses of various vaccines. Sandu said Health Ministry data showed that doses went to hundreds of ineligible people from the Defense Ministry, regional officials' relatives, and even doctors' families. "This is shameful and it discourages our efforts to obtain more vaccine donations from abroad," Sandu said.

The Defense Ministry in a statement on April 1 rejected the accusation, calling it an "erroneous data interpretation," and arguing that the people inoculated under the "other personnel" category in the Health Ministry records are actually health workers from military units.
Moldova's Health Ministry said on April 1 that it would check information that regional authorities and their relatives were jumping the queue. Ninel Revenco, an official at the national vaccination campaign, said the health ministry had established a commission to investigate possible violations. "The Health Ministry launched an investigation to determine if there were irregularities in the vaccination process. For this, the lists of all vaccinated will be checked," Revenco told a news conference, without providing details of violations. Local media reported that out-of-order vaccinations occurred in the northern town of Edinet and in Cantemir in the southern part of Moldova. Moldova started vaccinations on March 2 and so far around 40,000 medical workers and doctors have received a first shot. The country sandwiched between EU member Romania and Ukraine has reported 230,241 coronavirus cases and 4,960 deaths so far.

With reporting by Reuters, RFE/RL's Moldovan Service, unimedia.md, and news.yam.md

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