Monday, July 26, 2021

Cuba encouraged by early results of homegrown Covid-19 vaccines

The communist country has opted not to import foreign vaccines but rather to rely on its own.

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Cuba, whose biotech sector has exported vaccines for decades, has five vaccine candidates in clinical trials, of which two – Soberana 2 and Abdala – are in late phase trials, Reuters reports.

Its Soberana 2 vaccine candidate has shown 62% efficacy with just two of its three doses, state-run biopharmaceutical corporation BioCubaFarma said on Saturday, citing preliminary data from late phase trials.

“In a few weeks we should have the results for the efficacy with three doses which we expect will be superior,” said Vicente Verez, director of the state-run Finlay Vaccine Institute, which developed Soberana 2.

The news comes as the Caribbean’s largest island is facing its worst outbreak since the start of the pandemic as more contagious variants have arrived, setting new records of daily coronavirus cases.

The communist country has opted not to import foreign vaccines but rather to rely on its own.

Analysts say it is a risky bet but if it pays off, Cuba’s scientific reputation will soar and the vaccines will generate much-needed hard currency through exports and strengthen the vaccination drive worldwide.

“We know our government has not been able to provide this project all the funding it required, but nonetheless this is a result of global standing,” President Miguel Diaz-Canel said at the presentation of the results on state-run television.

Several countries from Argentina and Jamaica to Mexico and Venezuela have expressed an interest in buying Cuba’s vaccines. Iran started producing Soberana 2 earlier this year as part of late-phase clinical trials.

Cuban authorities have started administering the experimental vaccines on a large scale as part of “intervention studies” they hope will slow the spread of the virus.

Daily cases have halved in the capital since the start of this vaccination campaign, according to official data, although that may also be due to stricter lockdown measures.

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