A person stands close to a Cuban Nationwide flag on the Melia Varadero Worldwide Lodge in Matanzas Province, on October 23, 2020. Varadero, Cuba’s most vital seaside resort, is reopening to worldwide tourism, amid the coronavirus pandemic.
YAMIL LAGE | AFP | Getty Pictures
Cuba’s most superior Covid-19 vaccine candidate is scheduled to enter late-stage medical trials subsequent week, nudging the tiny island nation ever nearer to a rare medical achievement that analysts consider may have far reaching penalties all through the worldwide south.
Cuba’s most promising vaccine candidate, of the 4 it has in improvement, is named Soberana 02. The identify of the vaccine interprets from Spanish as “Sovereign,” an ostensible nod to Cuba’s sense of nationwide pleasure in its world-renowned well being system.
Soberana 02 is because of enter Section 3 trials from March 1, and officers say assessments will embody as many as 150,000 volunteers inside weeks. Section 3 trials characterize the ultimate stage earlier than a vaccine is usually authorized by nationwide regulators.
It comes at a time when many individuals in Cuba are pressured to attend in line for hours to purchase primary items and as authorities proceed to navigate a decades-old U.S. commerce embargo — with sanctions tightened even additional in recent times by former President Donald Trump.
“It’s simply this unimaginable dichotomy,” Helen Yaffe, a Cuba skilled and lecturer in financial and social historical past on the College of Glasgow, Scotland, informed CNBC through phone.
“On the one hand you will have this high-tech biotech sector which is bringing a number of hope to the worldwide south as a result of it’s the potential for an inexpensive vaccine — (and) vaccinating the worldwide south would be the precedence,” Yaffe stated.
“And on the similar time the Cubans are getting up at 4 or 5 within the morning to get into queues as a result of there’s actual shortage of actually primary foodstuffs and even medicines.”
What can we learn about Soberana 02?
Cuba’s Finlay Institute, the nation’s main biopharma establishment, is overseeing the event of Soberana 02. Dr. Vicente Verez, director of the institute, has hinted the vaccine may very well be made accessible as an choice to vacationers later this yr.
If Soberana 02 is discovered to be protected and efficient, the event of a domestically produced vaccine would seemingly be hailed as an astonishing scientific breakthrough and a big political triumph. It might additionally see Cuba grow to be the primary Latin American nation to immunize its inhabitants with a domestically produced vaccine.
Technician Mayelin Mejias works on the Vaccine Aseptic and Packaging Processing Plant on the Finlay Vaccine Institute in Havana, on January 20, 2021.
YAMIL LAGE | AFP | Getty Pictures
The federal government has not but outlined particular plans for inoculating vacationers, however analysts say it’s attainable foreigners touring to Cuba may obtain their first vaccine dose on the island earlier than receiving subsequent doses to take house with them.
Whereas public knowledge is proscribed, it’s thought as much as three doses of the vaccine may very well be administered at two-week intervals.
Yaffe, who can also be the writer of “We Are Cuba!: How a Revolutionary Folks Have Survived in a Put up-Soviet World,” stated Cuba’s subtle well being care system would assist the nation roll out the vaccine “extraordinarily” rapidly.
“I can assure that. And if they have a vaccine which is each two weeks then inside a month of beginning individuals may very well be vaccinated,” Yaffe stated.
“By summer season, persons are going to be fairly determined to go on vacation and I believe Cuba that nominates itself as a really perfect vacation spot. Individuals are already speaking about solar, sea, sand and Soberana 02. So, I would not be stunned if individuals find yourself going to Cuba in search of the vaccine and I am positive the Cubans will supply it.”
The Soberana 02 vaccine is a conjugate vaccine. It is a sort of vaccine that carries a portion of the spike protein which binds, or conjugates, with human cells to strengthen its stability and effectiveness.
In contrast to different coronavirus vaccine candidates, akin to Pfizer-BioNTech amongst others, Soberana 02 does not require additional refrigeration requirements. This is likely to simplify the logistical and administrative challenges associated with vaccination programs in low income countries.
People queue to buy food in Havana, on February 2, 2021, as Covid-19 cases surge in the island nation.
YAMIL LAGE | AFP | Getty Images
At a virtual session led by the Pan American Health Organization on Feb. 5, Dr. Verez said Soberana 02 had returned “encouraging results” during the early stages of testing. He added the vaccination had not yet generated any significant adverse reactions.
The Cuban government has said it will produce 100 million doses of Soberana 02 this year to meet the demands of its own citizens as well as those in other countries. It aims to be one of the first countries in the world to vaccinate its entire population in 2021, despite the fact that many advanced nations started administering jabs almost two months ago.
Several countries have expressed an interest in acquiring the vaccine, such as Vietnam, Iran, Venezuela and the African Union — which represents all 55 countries in Africa.
Cuba, which has recorded relatively few Covid cases when compared to other countries in the region, has seen a sharp uptick in infections and fatalities in recent weeks. To date, Cuba has recorded 45,361 cases of the coronavirus and 300 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
‘One of the world’s best-kept secrets’
Cuba has long been renowned for its medical diplomacy, with thousands of specialist staff sent abroad to help countries tackle short-term crises, natural disasters and medical emergencies.
Human rights groups have expressed concern that the Cuban government imposes repressive rules on doctors working abroad, citing the right to privacy, liberty and freedom of expression and association.
At the start of the Covid-19 outbreak, Cuba was estimated to have had 24,500 medical personnel working in 58 countries. A further 4,000 members of Cuba’s Henry Reeve Brigade, a group of highly respected health professionals, have gone to work in countries from Kuwait to Mexico, Italy to South Africa.
Cuban doctors during a welcome ceremony for Cuban health workers who were deployed to the Western Cape to support efforts in the fight against COVID-19 on May 24, 2020 in Cape Town, South Africa.
Misha Jordaan | Gallo Images via Getty Images
It is a deeply rooted tradition that means the country of just over 11 million is thought to have more medical personnel working abroad than all the G-7 countries put together.
“This is an extraordinary record, mainly unknown by mainstream media — one of the world’s best-kept secrets,” John Kirk, a professor at the Latin America program of Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada, told CNBC via email.
“Medical internationalism is in the Cuban DNA, and in fact the preamble to the Cuban constitution mentions the commitment that Cuba has to share its medical talent with developing countries,” he added.