Cuba could be the best hope for low-income nations in the fight against COVID-19, through the possible approval by the World Health Organization (WHO) of vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 produced in the country. Isla, said John Kirk, professor emeritus of the Latin America program at Dalhousie University, in Nova Scotia, Canada.
The consideration is reflected in a CNBC channel report, which highlights that Cuba’s prestigious biotech sector has developed different pandemic vaccines to date, including Abdala, Soberana 02 and Soberana Plus, which according to its authorities provide more than 90% protection against symptomatic disease when three doses are administered .
We will have to be eternally grateful to Cuban scientists. In these hard months, and together with our people, Cuban science saved the country. May all tributes today be for you. #DiaDeLaCienciaCubanahttps://t.co/xQL1Ww8yyA
– Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez (@DiazCanelB) January 15, 2022
The country of approximately 11 million inhabitants remains the only one in Latin America and the Caribbean that has produced a local anti-COVID-19 injection, and has vaccinated a higher percentage of its population than almost all the largest and wealthiest nations. the world, while struggling to keep supermarket shelves stocked amid the US embargo.
“It’s an incredible feat,” Helen Yaffe, an expert on Cuba and professor of economic and social history at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, told US television. “Those of us who have studied biotechnology are not surprised, because it has not come out of nowhere. It is the product of a conscious government policy of state investment in the sector, both in public health and in medical science.
To date, around 86% of the Cuban population has been fully vaccinated, and another 7% is partially inoculated against the disease, including children as young as two years old who have been receiving the vaccine for several months. In turn, the health authorities are promoting booster vaccines to the entire population this month, in an attempt to limit the spread of the Omicron variant.
Yaffe has long relied on Cuba’s ability to boast one of the strongest vaccination records in the world. In February of last year, even before the country had developed a local vaccine, he said he could “guarantee” that Cuba would be able to administer its domestically produced COVID-19 vaccine extremely quickly.
The expert based her knowledge on her public health system and its structure, on valuing the existence of a family doctor and nurse in each neighborhood, to rapidly reach the population with vaccines. “The other aspect is that they don’t have a vaccine hesitancy movement, which is something we’re seeing in many countries,” he said.
Unlike US pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and Moderna, which use mRNA technology, all of Cuba’s vaccines are subunit protein, like the Novavax vaccine. Crucially for low-income countries, they are less expensive to produce, can be manufactured at scale, and do not require deep freezing.
The current surge has prompted international health officials to tout injections as a potential source of hope for the “global south,” particularly as low vaccination rates persist. For example, while around 70% of people in the European Union have been fully vaccinated, in Africa the rate is less than 10%.
For this to happen, the WHO would probably have to approve Cuba’s vaccines, which is why the director general of the Island’s Finlay Institute of Vaccines, Vicente Vérez, stated last month that the start of a study by the Cuban Health Agency of the UN about that possibility “it would be an important step for vaccines to be available throughout the world.”
For his part, when Yaffe was asked what it would mean for low-income countries if the World Health Organization approved Cuba’s COVID-19 vaccines, he said: “I think it’s clear that many countries and populations in the Global South see the Cuban vaccine as their best hope to get vaccinated by 2025.
“And, in fact,” he added, “it concerns all of us because what we are seeing with the Omicron variant is that what happens when large populations have almost no coverage, is that you have mutations and new variants in development and then they come back to haunt the advanced capitalist countries that have been stockpiling vaccines.”
Regarding Cuban capacity, John Kirk said that “the sheer audacity of this small country to produce its own vaccines and vaccinate 90% of its population is something extraordinary,” adding that contrary to other countries or pharmaceutical companies, it has offered to participate in technology transfer to share their experience with low-income countries.
“Cuba’s objective – he stressed – is not to make easy money, unlike the multinational drug corporations, but to keep the planet healthy. So yes, make an honest profit but not an exorbitant profit like some of the multinationals would.”
The CNBC report denounces that along with pharmaceutical industry trade associations, several Western countries, including Canada and the United Kingdom, are among those actively blocking a patent-exempt proposal designed to boost global production of flu vaccines. COVID-19.
The urgency of relinquishing certain intellectual property rights amid the pandemic has been repeatedly underlined by the WHO, health experts, civil society groups, trade unions, former world leaders, international medical charities, Nobel laureates and human rights organizations. .