Cuba will produce 100 million doses of vaccine for COVID-19

By Andrea Rodriguez
January 19, 2021

HAVANA (AP) – Cuba will produce 100 million doses of its Soberana 02 new coronavirus vaccine this year to meet its own demand and those of other countries, a leading scientist reported Wednesday.

“We are reorganizing our productive capacities because we really have a lot of demand for the vaccine and we have to prepare ourselves,” the director of the Finlay Institute, Vicente Vérez, told a group of journalists at a conference in which a tour of the laboratory was offered. manufactures the substance against COVID-19.

The Finaly Institute created Soberana 02 and Soberana 01, the latter is in a less advanced research phase. Other biotechnology centers on the island are working on two more vaccine candidates called Abdalá and Mambisa.

The 100 million doses planned would be only from Sovereign 02 and there are already countries interested in acquiring it, such as Vietnam, Iran and Venezuela, among others and with which the island has collaboration agreements, including Pakistan and India, said Vérez.

This week the second part of a Phase II trial of this product began with 900 patients – who added to a hundred from the first stage – in a polyclinic in the capital, The Associated Press found the day before.

The volunteers – a group of them received a placebo as part of the study, although once it is finished they will be immunized with the real vaccine – said they had not reported discomfort. Even some neighbors from the polyclinic came to volunteer as part of the trial.

After being injected, the people – ranging from 19 to 80 years of age – waited in the same polyclinic before returning to their homes and were followed up at 24, 48 and 72 hours.

Vérez stressed that the antigen is safe after noting that it does not contain the live virus but parts of it, so – according to the expert – its placement generates immunity but does not cause major reactions and, therefore, does not need extra refrigeration, like others candidates of the world.

Meanwhile, Finlay researchers are working with countries such as Italy and Canada to verify the impact of these vaccines – especially Sovereign 01 – in people who already had COVID-19 and are convalescing but are at risk of reinfection. Likewise, the efficacy is evaluated in the face of the impact of new mutations such as that described in Great Britain, Japan or California.

For the next few weeks, the vaccination will be extended to 150,000 people on the island, confirmed Vérez, on the way to mass immunization and a test will be carried out in February to protect children with Sovereign 02, he said.

After several months of keeping the pandemic under control, Cuba suffered an outbreak this beginning of the year, after the opening of its airports and despite having a preventive health protocol. From March to date, 19,122 infections and 180 deaths have accumulated on the island.

The scientist did not offer details of the price that the vaccine will have for sale to other countries. In Cuba their placement is free and voluntary.

Despite being a small country, Cuba has a developed scientific center that produces almost all the vaccines it needs and state-of-the-art medicines.

“Cuba’s strategy to commercialize the vaccine has a combination of humanity and impact on health and the need for our system to support (financially) the production of vaccine and drugs for the country,” said Vérez.

“We are not a multinational company where (financial) return is the number one reason,” he added. “We work the other way around, creating more health and return is a consequence, it will never be the priority.”