Rolling through Moldova capital, trolleybus delivers Covid jabs

·2-min read

Struggling to walk and holding her daughter's hand, 82-year-old Larisa shuffles towards a blue trolleybus parked near her home in Moldova's capital Chisinau.

With the words "Stop Covid-19" on its side, the bus has been commandeered to deliver something precious: coronavirus jabs.

The mobile vaccination point drives through the streets with an ambulance, transporting jabs and a medical team to different districts of the city of more than 650,000.

One of its main goals is to provide easier access to vaccines for older people and those with limited mobility.

A bus driver brings out a chair so Larisa can sit while she waits for her turn to be vaccinated on a hot afternoon.

"It is very difficult for us to get to the clinic and when we found out that the trolleybus would come right under our house, I convinced mum to get vaccinated," her daughter Anna, 42, tells AFP.

"It's great to have such an opportunity," she says.

Equipped with a sink and refrigerators, the trolleybus stops every day in a new location, announced in advance on the internet or on local TV.

In the two months since the service started, its mobile team has vaccinated hundreds of Moldovans, said Viktor Manole, a doctor who works on the vehicle.

People feel much more relaxed on the bus than in a hospital, he said.

"Someone can leave their apartment in a robe, on the street where they live, get a jab and go back home," Manole said.

"They just need to find out when the trolleybus will be on their street and come out, that's it".

The bus provides two types of vaccines: Sinopharm or AstraZeneca.

Younger people are looking to get the Pfizer vaccine, Manole said, while those who lived under the Soviet Union mostly ask about Russia's Sputnik V, but at the moment neither are available.

Moldova, a country of 2.6 million wedged between Ukraine and Romania, has recorded more than 250,000 infections and over 6,000 deaths since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Its vaccination programme has gone relatively well, with more than 800,000 people having received at least one dose and some 300,000 fully vaccinated, according to the health ministry.

The country, which was annexed from Romania by the Soviet Union in 1940 and became independent in 1991, is one of the poorest in Europe.

On Monday it received the first doses of some 500,000 of the Johnson & Johnson jabs it is set to get through the World Health Organization's Covax programme.

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