[News] Cuba Accelerates Vaccine Drive

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Oct 5 10:52:38 EDT 2021


counterpunch.org
<https://www.counterpunch.org/2021/10/05/cuba-accelerates-vaccine-drive/> Cuba
Accelerates Vaccine Drive by Helen Yaffe
<https://www.counterpunch.org/author/helyal0912/>- October 5, 2021
------------------------------

Photograph Source: Phillip Pessar – CC BY 2.0
<https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/>

“Cuba has developed different RBD-based public vaccines, the most
administered worldwide (protein-based), and among them the only SARS-CoV-2
conjugate-vaccine (RBD-TT), designed especially for children.”

– Tweet by Fabrizio Chiodo, Italian scientist working with Cuba’s Finlay
Institute.[1]

Following clinical trials carried out over the summer, on 3 September 2021,
Cuba’s national medical regulatory body (CEMED) authorised emergency use of
the Finlay Institute’s Soberana vaccines for children from two to 18 years
old.[2]Cuba has now become the first country in the world to roll out
Covid-19 vaccines for children as young as two, and is among the few
countries worldwide to be vaccinating under 12-year-olds. The clinical
trials showed: ‘After two doses of Soberana02, 99.3% of 3-11 year-old
children and 92.9% of 12-18 year-old children had an antibody response that
was 4 times the pre-vaccination level’ – a superior response to that of
adults.[3]

Unlike Pfizer and Moderna, whose Covid-19 vaccines are based on new (mRNA)
technology, all of Cuba’s five domestically produced vaccines are based on
technology that has been used with children for decades. Back in 1988,
Cuba’s Finlay Institute developed the world’s first Meningitis B vaccine,
after an epidemic which particularly affected children. Soberana 2
increases immunogenicity and induces immunological memory. Children are
being given two doses of Soberana 2 and a third of Soberana Plus at 28-day
intervals. Cuban schools will not reopen until children have been
vaccinated. By mid-September, 460,000 Cuban children and adolescents (20%)
had received a first dose.

*Rapid vaccine roll out *

Soberana 2 and Soberana Plus are two of the five vaccine candidates
developed so far by Cuban medical scientists. Soberana Plus was designed to
protect Covid-19 convalescents (those already infected) from reinfection. A
paper in *The Lancet* medical journal concludes that a ‘single dose of the
[Soberana Plus] vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 was an efficient booster of
pre-existing natural immunity, with excellent safety profile.’[4]

Cuban vaccine Abdala, produced by the Centre for Genetic Engineering and
Biotechnology (CIGB), is also being rolled out nationwide; it has an
efficacy of 92.28%. Soberana 1 and Mambisa are still passing through
clinical trials. Cuba’s Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP) is delivering
150,000 to 200,000 doses daily. By 17 September, 39% of the population
(11.2 million) were fully vaccinated, with 3 doses, and 66% had received at
least one dose. Talks have started with the WHO about listing the Cuban
vaccines for emergency use worldwide. On 18 September, Vietnam approved
Abdala for its population.

Worldometer, Active Cases in Cuba.[5]

The rapid vaccine roll out is essential to arrest the alarming surge of
Covid-19 cases in Cuba, initially since January 2021 but soaring as the
Beta variant took hold in spring, followed by the highly contagious Delta
variant into the summer. The roll out of Soberana 2 was delayed due to
difficulties obtaining raw materials for industrial production – a direct
result of US sanctions. The US blockade, which has been tightened, has
imposed multiple obstacles on Cuba’s response to the pandemic. For example,
in early 2020, the island could not purchase medical ventilators for its
ICU units nor spare parts for its existing machines and in 2021 it has been
unable to purchase syringes and other medical equipment for the vaccination
roll out. Millions of syringes have been donated by solidarity activists
around the world, including millions from the United States.

This summer, Cuba’s infection rates have been among the highest in the
western hemisphere, although its Covid-19 fatality rate has remained well
below the world and regional averages. In mid-September it was 0.85%
compared to 1.8% in Britain and 1.6% in the United States. With the vaccine
rollout delayed, cases surged out of control in Matanzas and local health
services were overwhelmed. The fatalities were devastating; but they were
exploited from outside by entities and individuals financed with US
Congress-approved dollars who are employed in the social media war on Cuba.
As reported previously in Counterpunch
<https://www.counterpunch.org/2021/07/23/whats-really-going-on-in-cuba/>:
‘On 15 June, the hashtag #SOSCuba was launched by a US company, the same
day it was authorised to receive state funding. On 5 July, hashtags
appeared calling for a “humanitarian corridor” in Cuba’. The hashtag
#SOSMatanzas was promoted to urge an anxious population onto the streets in
protest and to call for foreign intervention in Cuba. These machinations
were behind the 11 July protests.

During August infection rates remained stubbornly high, generating
shortages of critical care beds in areas experiencing a surge. President
Díaz-Canel told officials that the pandemic ‘had exceeded the capacities of
the health system, placing stress on the work of all its personnel, of all
the organisations that are supporting the confrontation with the pandemic’.
To compound Cuba’s woes, the main plant producing medical oxygen broke
down. Cuba’s access to both the foreign exchange and the spare parts
necessary for maintenance is obstructed by the US blockade. The Russian
government donated a new oxygen plant, and China shipped high performing
lung ventilators and oxygen concentrators. UNICEF also donated a medicinal
oxygen plant to Cuba. Mexico, Venezuela and other countries in Latin
America also sent assistance, including foodstuffs, essentials in short
supply as a result of US sanctions imposed to asphyxiate the Cuban people.
The oxygen plant was restored by 4 September.

Also in early September, MINSAP announced that two doses of China’s
Sinopharm vaccine would be given to the population of Cienfuegos, a
province with some of the highest infection rates nationwide, with a third
dose of Soberana Plus. By 21 September, total Covid-19 deaths in Cuba were
6,978 and daily Covid cases and fatalities were finally beginning to
decline. This is vital for a country that prioritises human welfare but is
also obliged to reopen the economy to avoid more acute shortages and
greater suffering.

*Tourism to gradually reopen *

The aim is to have 90% of the population fully vaccinated by December. From
mid-November, the island will gradually re-open for tourism, guided by
epidemiological indicators in each province. Cuba’s main tourists are from
countries with high-vaccination rates: Canada, France, Britain, Germany and
Spain. Tourists will require a vaccination certificate or, if unvaccinated,
a negative PCR test result within 72 hours of arrival. While relaxing its
stringent hygiene-health protocols, Cuba will focus on symptomatic
patients, temperature monitoring and random testing. Visitors who test
positive will be transferred to a hotel-hospital tourist facility for
isolation and medical care.

More than 75% of the purchases made for the tourism sectors are from
national industries, so this should boost domestic production. During the
pandemic, over half of Cuba’s 111,000 tourism workers remained actively
engaged, with many reassigned to work in hotels designated as paediatric
and maternity hospitals, and other centres.

2021 has been tough for Cuba, with the enduring impact of the Trump
administration sanctions, reinforced by Biden who imposed new sanctions on
30 July, and the pandemic. The global public health crisis has undermined
the state’s capacity to circumvent the US blockade, which almost the entire
world opposes. However, by the end of the year the island will be among the
first countries in the world to fully vaccinate its population, and that
means the domestic scenario should improve.

*Cuban vaccines update*

By 1 October, 9,477,620 Cubans had received at least one dose of a domestic
vaccine and 5,424,640 were fully vaccinated, which represents 48.5% of the
Cuban population. 1.6 million Cuban children and adolescents had received
their first dose of Cuba’s Soberana 2, including 900,000 aged between 2 and
11 years old.

*Notes.*

[1] https://twitter.com/FabrizioChiodo/status/1437428339132846080?s=20

[2] Sinopharm and Sinovac also have vaccines approved for this age.

[3] Resumen de los resultados de Ensayo Clínico SOBERANA-PEDIATRÍA, 6/9/21.
https://www.finlay.edu.cu/blog/resumen-de-los-resultados-de-ensayo-clinico-soberana-pediatria/

[4] *The Lancet*, 15 September 2021.

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanam/article/PIIS2667-193X(21)00075-2/fulltext

[5] https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/cuba/

*A version of this article first appeared in Fight Racism! Fight
Imperialism! 284 October/November 2021.*
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