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Cuba punches beyond its weight to develop its own Covid vaccine | Cuba

Suffering from the double pain of US sanctions and a pandemic, Cuba It has experienced the most serious economic crisis since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Pharmacy shelves are barren. People queue for hours to buy chicken. Bread is hard to find.

Nevertheless, the besieged island could become the world’s smallest country to develop its own coronavirus vaccine. Of the 27 coronavirus vaccines that are undergoing final-stage testing worldwide Two are cuba..

“To gain our sovereignty, we need our own vaccine,” said Dr. Vicente Velez, director of the Finlay Institute, which developed the most advanced sovereign 2 of the country’s five vaccine candidates. I did. “In nine months, we moved from ideas to vaccines in Phase 3 clinical trials.”

Currently, approximately 44,000 volunteers from Havana are participating in the Phase 3 trial of Sovereign 2. A similar number volunteers in Phase 3 of Abdullah, a vaccine named after the poem of José Martí, the official “national hero” of the island, in the eastern city of Santiago. ..

Healthcare professionals administer sovereign 2 to Havana volunteers. Photo: Xinhua / Rex / Shutterstock

In parallel with the clinical study is an “intervention study” in which 150,000 healthcare workers in Havana are currently vaccinated.

Cuba’s “Biological Front” was founded in 1981. This was only five years after Genentech, the world’s first biotechnology company, was founded. At the heart of today’s vaccine efforts are the island’s top scientists, many of whom are trained in the former Soviet Union. These internationally mobile polyglots have every opportunity to migrate (and many do). Those who choose to work on the island are almost always followers of old schools.

At a recent press conference, Dr. Beres explained why he was moving him, citing Ernesto “Che” Guevara. “A true revolutionary,” he said. “I am guided by wonderful love.”

Volunteers wait to measure blood pressure with a nurse after being injected with the sovereign 2 vaccine
Volunteers wait to measure blood pressure with a nurse after being injected with the sovereign 2 vaccine Photo: Ramón Espinosa / AP

Dr. Gerald Gillen, who heads the development of two vaccines at the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, loves chocolate, which he had to do without his favorite modifications for over a year (there’s nothing in the store). His monthly salary of £ 200 is one-hundredth of what he can earn abroad.

“We have an offer,” said Dr. Mitchell Valdes Sosa, a Chicago-born neurologist and a member of the country’s Coronavirus Task Force. “But we feel a commitment to the development of the country, so we prefer to stay. We are not working to make some CEOs obscenely rich. I Are working to make people healthier. “

Such idealism is not protection from the bitter geopolitical reality.

The US embargo on Cuba limits the medical devices that the island can import. Various Cuban research teams working on vaccines share one spectrometer, an essential machine for quality control, that is powerful enough to analyze the chemical structure of vaccines. However, the British manufacturer of spectrometers, Micromass, has not been able to buy spare parts directly since it was acquired by the American company Waters.

Scientists are working on the development of Abdullah at the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in Havana.
Scientists are working on the development of Abdullah at the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in Havana. Photo: Ramón Espinosa / AP

United Nations human rights reporter in the United States Lift island sanctions during a pandemic, For the past 12 months, the embargo Ramp up..

And since the Trump administration put Cuba on the list of state sponsors of terrorism in the United States in January, it’s just a matter of finding a bank that is willing to process payments. Big problem..

“The United States is trying to starve and submit Cuba,” said Valdes Sosa. “Not only is it difficult to buy things directly from the United States, but all these sanctions implemented by the Trump administration have also depleted many sources of income.”

Cuba reported 12,225 confirmed cases and 146 deaths last year. This is one of the lowest cases and mortality rates in the hemisphere. However, a blunder occurred in November. When commercial flights were finally resumed after a long seven months, the government did not require visitors to undergo a PCR test for several weeks before boarding the plane. The effect was fatal. Thousands of Cuban Americans came from Covid’s hotspots like Florida to hug, kiss, and dance with their families during Christmas, and the incident surged.

More cases were reported in January alone than in 2020 as a whole, and the island currently reports an average of 1,000 confirmed cases per day.

People are lining up to buy food in Havana.
People are lining up to buy food in Havana. Photo: Yamil Lage / AFP / Getty Images

To date, about 100,000 Cubans have received jabs, and the island lags behind the average Latin American vaccine deployment of 12% of those who receive at least one vaccination. And because there are no vaccines that have not yet been fully approved for use by the island’s regulators, critics say they will not participate in Covax, a UN-backed mechanism that distributes Covid-19 doses fairly around the world. Says that his decision was arrogant and left unnecessarily exposed.

Cuba aims to produce 100 million doses of sovereign 2 this year. This is enough for people with surplus to export.

If production hurdles are cleared, distribution logistics should be a strength. The island has a well-developed infrastructure for local community clinics World’s highest doctor-patient ratio..

Cuban scientists are confident that widespread vaccination will be achieved this year, saying that Cuba will be one of the first countries in the hemisphere to achieve this.

“Once everything is in place, you don’t have to think too much,” said Dr. Gillen, “but when you’re in trouble, you have to think of new ways to innovate.”

Cuba punches beyond its weight to develop its own Covid vaccine | Cuba

Source link Cuba punches beyond its weight to develop its own Covid vaccine | Cuba

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