Cuba races to vaccinate front-line health staff with its own patent formula

Havana, March 29, 2021: Soberna-2 is the name given to the vaccine Cuba has developed and produced domestically, and if successful, will be the first COVID-19 vaccination to be indigenous to Latin America.

Maria Ruiz, a nurse in Havana, is amongst those on whom the vaccine will be tested, albeit without placebo and using the “real thing”, said she was nervous but excited. The first vaccine which was used without first completing global clinical trials, was Sputnik V, which is now being successfully administered around the world. Soberana-2 makers hope it will follow the same route.

The initiative aims to vaccinate 150,000 hospital workers, including technicians and maintenance staff, and is a source of pride for Cubans who have had to produce vaccines since the 1980s, being under sanctions from the US. The research for this vaccine started back in April 2020 and may seem like a gamble, but is among a total of four vaccines developed in Cuba and being tested for efficacy simultaneously.

If it succeeds in gaining authorization, the vaccine will be administered starting June and by August, Cuba which is relatively unscathed by the pandemic, with only 405 deaths, aims to vaccinate 6million people. Barbera, who is  a part of the intervention studies, says, “Can you believe it, that in such a short space of time, a country under embargo, with so many needs, has made a quality vaccine.”

The participants include doctors, nurses and even pest controllers and the testing regime includes, temperature checks at the entrance, blood pressure test and questionnaire on the first floor and observation in case of adverse reactions.

Cuba has already sent samples of Soberna-2 for testing to Iran and Abdala will be sent to Venezuela, and if successful, Cuba can soon mass produce and export the vaccines to what they call “friendly countries”.

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