Where skepticism is greater than fear

The Republic of Moldova is considered the poorest country in Europe. During the pandemic, she received vaccine shipments from all over the world. But the citizens do without. How do you convince a people who are united only in mistrust?

Petru says he’s a numbers person. A corona test, he says, is the equivalent of 40 euros. Every time. A forged vaccination certificate costs 60 euros once. What are you taking there? Petru draws on his cigarette. Then he says: «Of course I bought the certificate.»

Moldova, officially: The Republic of Moldova seems to be a country with many numbers people in the pandemic. There are numerous offers for fake vaccination certificates at comparatively low prices. In doing so, they would not be necessary at all. There is no shortage of vaccines in Moldova, there is even more of them than has been needed so far. But there seems to be a great deal of suspicion. The WHO estimates that only around 30 percent of citizens are currently vaccinated.

The small country is sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine , it is best known for the Transnistria conflict. The struggle for the eastern part of the country has been going on for almost 30 years. Pro-Russian separatists control the region and are only recognized internationally by Moscow .

But the Moldovan government is not strong enough to regain full control of the area, and both sides have lived side by side for years. As with the energy dispute with Russia , the former Soviet republic is dependent on outside help in the corona pandemic. Moldova is considered the poorest country in Europe.

Waiting for Sputnik V

The country received 500,000 doses of AstraZeneca from its EU neighbor Romania by mid-September, and a similar number of vaccine doses Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson came through the international Covax initiative . For a long time, however, the government preferred another supplier: President Igor Dodon, who was voted out in the summer, drummed for the Russian vaccine Sputnik V for months.

Dodon demonstratively did not accept deliveries from other countries, which gave further impetus to rumors and reservations. However, when the first of 180,000 promised cans of Sputnik V were delivered, the socialist was no longer in office. His successor Maia Sandu is now faced with the challenge of having hundreds of thousands of doses of vaccine from different manufacturers and a population that hardly really trusts any of them.

Mistrust that is life-threatening

Inga Pasecinic knows the worries of her fellow human beings. «Many are afraid of side effects, there are wild rumors,» says the doctor. On behalf of the government, she and her team should advertise the corona vaccinations and vaccinate interested parties on site. But so far only one teacher has been vaccinated at the Limbenii Vechi school.

What else is being done to get people to vaccinate?

The photographer Matthias Schumann and the Austrian journalist Stefan Schocher traveled the country for several weeks and looked for the reasons why the Moldovans are so skeptical; the research was made possible by the Renovabis research award.

On their trip, the two 90-year-olds met seniors who were convinced of the vaccination in their own living room. They spoke to young people, some of whom have spent half their lives in the West and who are more skeptical about Europe than their parents.

“In the end,” says Schumann, “we were sometimes at a loss as to what people wanted. Waiting has become a mentality. It’s a deadly problem in the pandemic. ”The two journalists also wondered if there was a way to overcome people’s skepticism. “History has taught the people of Moldova that they cannot trust anyone. For many, it seems safer to buy a fake vaccination certificate than to protect yourself with a vaccine. But the price of distrust is very high. «