BELIZE CITY, Wed. June 23, 2021– On Monday, the president of Cuba, Miguel Diaz-Canel, announced that, in clinical trials, one of their COVID-19 vaccine candidates, Abdala, has shown a 92.28% rate of efficacy against the virus. Another vaccine produced by the Caribbean island, Soberana 02, has also passed the World Health Organization’s (WHO) efficacy threshold of 50%, recording a 62% rate of effectiveness against the virus in late clinical trials.
The vaccine candidates are the first produced by a Latin American and Caribbean country and were produced while the country faced “two pandemics,” President Diaz-Canel said.
“Hit by two pandemics [Covid-19 and the US blockade] our scientists at the Finlay Institute and Center for Genetic Engineering and Biology [CIGB] have jumped over all the hurdles and given us two very effective vaccines,” President Diaz-Canel, who is also the first secretary of the Cuban Communist Party, stated.
The US government currently has 240 restrictive or punitive measures in place as part of its decades-long embargo against the country. Many of the new measures were introduced at the height of the pandemic, during the Trump presidency. Despite this hindrance, the country has successfully produced five Covid-19 vaccine candidates, two of which have passed the WHO’s efficacy threshold.
The country is now awaiting emergency approval from its Center for State Control Medicines, Equipment, and Medical Devices so that it can begin to ramp up its vaccination campaign. Over 1.7 million persons on the island are expected to receive the vaccine within the coming weeks.
Since the late 1950s, Cuba adopted the concept of Medical Internationalism, a brainchild of the late Ernesto “Che” Guevara (a medical doctor himself) and Fidel Castro. Since then, the country has trained and deployed thousands of doctors worldwide. These doctors have been the world’s frontline of defense against the Covid-19 pandemic, being sent to many countries as a buffer for their healthcare systems.
Over the years, the country has also developed several vaccines that have been sent worldwide. With its vast experience in the development of vaccines, it is no surprise that Cuba has led the charge in our region as the first to develop a homegrown inoculation.
Cuban Ambassador to Belize, H.E. Lissette Perez, has remarked that the country’s extensive background in biotechnology has afforded them the skillset to develop these vaccines. She also noted that these ideas of self-sufficiency and sharing with the international community were taught to them by the late President Fidel Castro.
“We were educated in the concept to help others, and also there is the vision of Fidel, that [educated] Cubans, that we have to share and, for example, the new development that we have of these vaccines is because of his vision to create in Cuba a very strong industry from 30 years ago, because he saw we needed independent sovereignty in terms of technology, because imagine living with the blockade and we can’t acquire medicine. It is very difficult to access certain advanced technology. So, for 30 years, we have been working to create a very strong biotechnology industry. From 30 years ago we have been doing our own vaccine for the immunization of the population,” Ambassador Perez said.
She added, “That is why we are very proud that two days ago we announced that we have two vaccines ready for facing the Covid-19 [virus]. One is Soberana 02 and the second one is Abdala, which in the final trial shows 92% of efficacy in facing the Covid-19 [virus]. We are running with the vaccination of our population. We think that in the summer 70% of the population will be vaccinated with our own vaccine, and at the end of the year, we will have all of the population vaccinated. Despite the blockade that we are suffering, this is a very good achievement and I want to highlight that this is a vaccine not only for Cuba; it is a vaccine for Latin America and the Caribbean. We are very proud of that. “
Cuba is poised to become an important supplier of Covid-19 vaccines for Latin America and the Caribbean. To date, several countries across the region, including Venezuela, Argentina, and Mexico, have expressed interest in purchasing Cuba’s vaccine.