Cuba has vaccinated most against Covid-19, more than most large, rich countries

Cuba has vaccinated more of its citizens against Covid-19 than most of the largest and richest nations in the world.

The Caribbean island has vaccinated over 90% of its population with at least one dose, and 83% of the population is now fully vaccinated, statistics compiled by Our World in Data.

What’s Cuba’s Secret? While many of its Latin American neighbors as well as emerging economies around the world competed for vaccines from wealthier nations, health officials say Cuba has made headway in developing its own vaccines.

Covid-19 infections and deaths have declined in recent weeks on the island, falling to less than 1% of their peak on August 22nd when fewer than half of citizens were vaccinated.

Almost all Cuban children between the ages of 2 and 18 have now been vaccinated with home-grown vaccines.

Schools have reopened and foreign tourists are welcome again. Hospitals and morgues that were overcrowded in August appear to be operating at pre-pandemic levels, according to Reuters witnesses.

“Given the size of Cuba, and also the US embargo that is restricting its import options, this is a truly remarkable achievement,” said William Moss, director of the Johns Hopkins International Vaccine Access Center, a US university group that works for fairness Ensure access for low-income countries.

Cuba has said that its home-grown, protein-based Abdala, Soberana 02, and Soberana Plus shots offer greater than 90% protection against symptomatic Covid-19 when presented on a three-dose regimen.

However, Cuba has not published the results of its large-scale clinical trials in peer-reviewed journals, nor has the World Health Organization provided the documents required by the World Health Organization for its vaccines to be approved, according to the WHO’s online list.

As a result, some public health experts in other countries are suspicious of recommending them until the results are verified.

The vaccines, which are inexpensive to manufacture and do not need to be frozen, are viewed by international health authorities as a potential source of much-needed doses in low-income countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia.

“They have been slow to publish the results,” said Moss. “If (the vaccines) got WHO qualification … that could really matter around the world.”

Cuba’s progress is being tracked by COVAX, a global program designed to ensure fair access to Covid-19 vaccines.

Cuba is also investigating whether the variant of Omicron, which was first reported on the island on December 8, will compromise protection.

Over the past week, new research has shown that some of the world’s most widely used vaccines are likely to offer less protection from Omicron infection. The shots are expected to remain effective against serious illness and death.

fine print

The documents and data required for the review of Soberana vaccines developed by the Cuban Finlay Vaccine Institute will be sent to WHO in the first quarter of 2022, Vicente Verez, the head of Finlay, told Reuters.

Verez said WHO standards, which rate not only the vaccine but also the manufacturing facilities, have slowed Cuba down.

“This is a first-world standard,” said Verez, pointing out the cost of bringing facilities up to this level. “We need to move forward with our manufacturing process to ensure that we receive a WHO prequalification with our application.”

Cuba’s biotech industry began to grow in the 1980s, aided by the late revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, who saw the sector as critical to the communist nation’s self-sufficiency in the face of the US embargo. But some of its facilities are showing their age.

Verez said Cuba was negotiating with both Canada and Italy to manufacture its vaccines in those countries for export to regions in need, including Africa.

Brazil-based virologist Amilcar Perez Riverol said Cuba will face a new test with Omicron in the meantime.

The high vaccination rates, a large group who gained immunity to previous infection, and Cuba’s early move to fully vaccinate its children “put the country in a really positive position as the pandemic evolves in the future,” said Perez Riverol.

However, he said Cuba’s comparatively large elderly population, lack of medical care and a volatile health system still make it vulnerable.

“In no way is it time to announce victory,” he said.

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