Cuba develops COVID vaccine in hopes of haling spread in infections. In Havana, 1 May would normally mark one of the biggest public events not just in Cuba but in the whole world. Upwards of a million people would parade through Revolution Square to celebrate International Workers’ Day, otherwise known as May Day.
May Day in Cuba during Coronavirus
In 2021 the flags and decorations have been put up, but the parade has been cancelled for the second time in its history, due to the ongoing pandemic.
Cuba is renowned for its public health system – it is often described as one of the successes of the Cuban Revolution. It would probably not be accurate to call it one of the best health services in the world – but it is certainly excellent, taking into account the limited resources of the island country, which has spent decades under economic sanctions imposed by its much bigger neighbour to the north.
To read about the recent economic reforms in Cuba click here.
Cuba’s pride has caused it to opt out of the WHO’s scheme for distributing vaccines at low cost to poorer countries. Instead, it has decided to go out on a limb and develop its own vaccine.
Cuba develops COVID vaccine
If Cuba manages to pull this off it will be quite an achievement. The other COVID vaccines being rolled out around the world have been developed by multi-billion-dollar companies, with the backing of major governments. Johnson & Johnson’s annual revenues are greater than the true GDP of Cuba. The island has great difficulty accessing basic products on the world markets, because of financial constraints but also because the crippling US sanctions make even non-US many companies and Banks afraid to deal with Cuba.
To maximise chances of a good result, Cuba has been working on five different vaccine candidates. The most promising is called Soberana 02 – it combines a protein from the Covid virus with an inactivated tetanus toxin, which produces a stronger immune response.
Some people have expressed scepticism at the possibility of Cuba producing a quality vaccine product. Soberana 02 is undergoing Phase III trials as of May 2021, and results won’t be published until June. It may be that the culture of the Cuban government precludes openness which might characterise such a project elsewhere. However, Cuba clearly has sufficient faith to publicly commit to vaccinating the entire adult population as soon as possible.
What is the global take on the Cuban vaccine?
There are several very well-funded media operations working out of Miami which take every possible opportunity to bash the Cuban government. So far, they have been remarkably silent on the vaccine projects. It’s inconceivable that they would not hear about any significant adverse reactions during the vaccine trials – so it can be assumed that the Cuban vaccines are safe, even if their efficacy is not certain.
Cuba is undergoing very significant hardships – with tourism income cut to almost zero for more than a year, the country is desperately short of hard currency to import even basic items such as medicine and food. The expectation is that the country will be able to re-open very soon to tourism, and that things will then begin to return to normal.
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