Cuba’s prestigious biotech sector has developed five different Covid vaccines to date, including Abdala, Soberana 02 and Soberana Plus — all of which Cuba has said provide upwards of 90% protection against symptomatic Covid when administered in three doses.
The country of roughly 11 million remains the only country in Latin America and the Caribbean to have produced a homegrown shot for Covid.
The WHO’s potential approval of Cuba’s nationally produced Covid vaccines would carry “enormous significance” for low-income nations, John Kirk, professor emeritus at the Latin America program of Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada, told CNBC via telephone.
Cuba has vaccinated a greater percentage o of its population against
Covid-19 than almost all of the world’s largest and richest nations. In fact,
only the oil-rich United Arab Emirates boasts a stronger vaccination record. The tiny Communist-run Caribbean island has
achieved this milestone by producing its own Covid vaccine, even as it
struggles to keep supermarket shelves stocked amid a decades-old U.S. trade
“It is an
incredible feat,” Helen Yaffe, a Cuba expert and lecturer in economic and
social history at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, told CNBC via telephone. “Those of us who have studied biotech aren’t
surprised in that sense, because it has not just come out of the blue. It is
the product of a conscious government policy of state investment in the sector,
in both public health and in medical science.”
around 86% of the Cuban population has been fully vaccinated against Covid with
three doses, and another 7% have been partly inoculated against the disease,
according to official statistics compiled by Our World in Data. These figures include children from the age
of two, who began receiving the vaccine several months ago. The country’s
health authorities are rolling out booster shots to the entire population this
month in a bid to limit the spread of the highly transmissible omicron Covid
I think it is clear that many
countries and populations in the global south see the Cuban vaccine as their
best hope for getting vaccinated by 2025.
Helen Yaffe Lecturer in economic
and social history at the University of Glasgow
country of roughly 11 million remains the only country in Latin America and the
Caribbean to have produced a homegrown shot for Covid.
sheer audacity of this tiny little country to produce its own vaccines and
vaccinating 90% of its population is an extraordinary thing,” John Kirk,
professor emeritus at the Latin America program of Dalhousie University in Nova
Scotia, Canada, told CNBC via telephone.
prestigious biotech sector has developed five different Covid vaccines,
including Abdala, Soberana 02 and Soberana Plus — all of which Cuba says
provide upwards of 90% protection against symptomatic Covid when three doses
vaccine clinical trial data has yet to undergo international scientific peer
review, although the country has engaged in two virtual exchanges of
information with the World Health Organizationto initiate the Emergency
Use Listing process for its vaccines.
U.S. pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and Moderna, which use mRNA technology, all of Cuba’s vaccines are
subunit protein vaccines — like the Novavax vaccine. Crucially for low-income countries,
they are cheap to produce, can be manufactured at scale and do not require deep
freezing. It has prompted international
health officials to tout the shots as a potential source of hope for the
“global south,” particularly as low vaccination rates persist. For instance,
while around 70% of people in the European Union have been fully vaccinated, less than 10% of the African population have been
Verez, head of Cuba’s Finlay Vaccine Institute, told Reuters last month that
the U.N. health agency was assessing Cuba’s manufacturing facilities to a
“first-world standard,” citing the costly process in upgrading theirs to that
Verez has said previously that the necessary documents and data would be submitted to the WHO in the first quarter of 2022. Approval from the WHO would be an important step in making the shots available throughout the world.
asked what it would mean for low-income countries should the WHO approve Cuba’s
Covid vaccines, Yaffe said: “I think it is clear that many countries and
populations in the global south see the Cuban vaccine as their best hope for
getting vaccinated by 2025.” “And
actually, it affects all of us because what we are seeing with the omicron
variant is that what happens when vast populations have almost no coverage is
that you have mutations and new variants developing and then they come back to
haunt the advanced capitalist countries which have been hoarding vaccines,” she
agreed that the WHO’s potential approval of Cuba’s nationally produced Covid
vaccines would carry “enormous significance” for developing countries.
thing that is important to bear in mind is that the vaccines don’t require the
ultra-low temperatures which Pfizer and Moderna need so there are places, in
Africa in particular, where you don’t have the ability to store these global
north vaccines,” Kirk said.
pointed out that Cuba, unlike other countries or pharmaceutical companies, had
offered to engage in the transfer of technology to share its vaccine production
expertise with low-income countries. “The
objective of Cuba is not to make a fast buck, unlike the multinational drug
corporations, but rather to keep the planet healthy. So, yes making an honest
profit but not an exorbitant profit as some of the multinationals would make,”
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned last month that a “tsunami” of Covid cases
driven by the omicron variant was “so huge and so quick” that it had
overwhelmed health systems worldwide. Tedros
repeated his call for greater vaccine distribution to help low-income countries
vaccinate their populations, with more than 100 countries on track to miss the U.N. health agency’s target
for 70% of the world to be fully vaccinated by July.
said last year that the world was likely to have enough Covid vaccine doses in
2022 to fully inoculate the entire global adult population — provided that
high-income countries did not hoard vaccines to use in booster programs.
pharmaceutical industry trade associations, a number of Western countries —
such as Canada and the U.K. — are among those actively blocking a patent-waiver proposal
designed to boost the global production of Covid vaccines. The urgency of waiving certain intellectual
property rights amid the pandemic has repeatedly been underscored by the WHO,
health experts, civil society groups, trade unions, former world leaders,
international medical charities, Nobel laureates and human rights
An absence of vaccine hesitancy
seven-day average of daily Covid cases in Cuba climbed to 2,063 as at Jan. 11,
reflecting an almost 10-fold increase since the end of December as the omicron
variant spreads. This comes as the
number of omicron Covid cases surges across countries and territories in the
Americas region. The Pan American Health Organization, the WHO’s regional
Americas office, has warned that a rise in cases may lead to an uptick in
hospitalizations and deaths in the coming weeks.
called on countries to accelerate vaccination coverage to reduce Covid
transmission and has repeated its recommendation of public health measures,
such as tight-fitting masks — a mandatory requirement in Cuba.
long been confident in Cuba’s ability to boast one of the world’s strongest
vaccination records. Speaking to CNBC in February last year — before the
country had even developed a homegrown vaccine — she said she could “guarantee”that Cuba would be able to administer its domestically produced Covid
vaccine extremely quickly. “It wasn’t
conjecture,” Yaffe said. “It was based on understanding their public health
care system and the structure of it. So, the fact that they have what they call
family doctor and nurse clinics in every neighborhood.”
these clinics are based in rural and hard-to-reach areas and it means health
authorities can quickly deliver vaccines to the island’s population. “The other aspect is they don’t have a
movement of vaccine hesitancy, which is something that we are seeing in many
countries,” Yaffe said.
he street demonstrations that broke out all over Cuba on July 11 are an unprecedented event in the more than 60 years since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution.
But why now? This essay explores the historic, economic and political factors
that help to clarify the causes of Cuba’s July 11,
considers the role of the United States, and briefly reflects on
On Sunday, July 11, Cuba erupted in street
protests. Unlike the major street protest that took place in 1994 and was limited to the Malecón, the long multi-lane
Havana road facing the Gulf of Mexico, the July 11
outbreak of protest was national in scope. There were protests in many towns
and cities, including Santiago de Cuba in the east, Trinidad in the center of
the island, as well as Havana in the west. The growing access to social media
in the island played an important role in the rapid spread of the protests; no
wonder the government immediately suspended access to certain social media
sites and brought all telephone calls from abroad to a halt.
The street presence and participation of Black women and men was notable
everywhere. This should not be surprising since Black Cubans are far less
likely to receive hard currency remittances from abroad even though over 50% of the population receive some degree of financial
support through that channel. These remittances have become the key to survival
in Cuba, particularly in light of the ever-diminishing number of goods
available in the peso-denominated subsidized ration book. Cuban Blacks have also
been the victims of institutional racism in the growing tourist industry where
“front line” visible jobs are mostly reserved
for conventionally attractive white and light skinned women and men.
The demonstrators did not endorse or support any political program or
ideology, aside from the general demand for political freedom. The official
Cuban press claims that the demonstrations were organized from abroad by
right-wing Cubans. But none of the demands associated with the Cuban right-wing
were echoed by the demonstrators, like the support for Trump often heard in
South Florida and among some dissident circles in Cuba. And no one called for “humanitarian intervention” espoused by Plattistas
(Platt Amendment, approved by Congress in 1901and
abolished in 1934, gave the United States the right
to militarily intervene in Cuba), such as biologist Ariel Ruiz Urquiola,
himself a victim of government repression for his independent ecological
activism. The demonstrators did speak about the scarcity of food, medicine and
essential consumer items, repudiated President Díaz-Canel as singao—a
phrase that in Cuba translates as “fucked” but
means a wicked, evil person, and chanted patria y vida
(fatherland and life). “Patria y Vida” is
the title of a very popular and highly polished rap song by a group
of Cuban Black rappers (available on YouTube.) I have seen and heard the
song more than a dozen times to enjoy it as well as to search for its
explicit and implied meanings including in its silences and ambiguities.
“Patria y Vida” counterposes itself to the old
Cuban government slogan of “Patria
o Muerte” (“Fatherland or Death”). While that slogan may have made sense
in the 1960s when Cuba was faced with actual
invasions, it borders on the obscene when voiced by second generation
bureaucrats. It is certainly high time that the regime’s macho cult of violence
and death be challenged, and this song does it very well.
But what does it mean to implicitly repudiate the year 1959,
the first year of the successful revolution, as the song does? There was no
Soviet style system in Cuba at the time and the year 1959
is not equivalent to the Castro brothers. Many people of a wide variety of
political beliefs fought and died to bring about the revolution that overthrew
the Batista dictatorship. The song does express many important democratic
sentiments against the present Cuban dictatorship, but it is unfortunately
silent about the desirable alternative, which leaves room for the worst
right-wing, pro-Trump elements in South Florida to rally behind it as if it
True to form, President Díaz-Canel called on the “revolutionaries”
to be ready for combat and go out and reclaim the streets away from the
demonstrators. In fact, it was the uniformed police, Seguridad del Estado (the
secret police), and Boinas Negras (black berets, the special forces) that
responded with tear gas, beatings and hundreds of arrests, including several
leftist critics of the government. According to a July 21 Reuters report, the authorities had confirmed that they
had started the trials of the demonstrators accused of a variety of
charges, but denied it according to another press report on July 25. These are summary trials without the benefit of
defense counsel, a format generally used for minor violations in Cuba but
which in this case involves the possibility of years in prison for those
Most of the demonstrations were angry but usually peaceful and only in a few instances did the demonstrators behave violently, as in the case of some looting and a police car that was overturned. This was in clear contrast with the violence frequently displayed by the forces of order. It is worth noting that in calling his followers to take to the streets to combat the demonstrators, Díaz-Canel invoked the more than 60-year-old notion that “the streets belong to the revolutionaries.” Just as the government has always proclaimed that “the universities belong to the revolutionaries” in order to expel students and professors that don’t toe the government’s line. One example is René Fidel González García, a law professor expelled from the University of Oriente. He is a strong critic of government policies, who, far from giving up on his revolutionary ideals, has reaffirmed them on numerous occasions.
But Why Now?
Cuba is in the middle of the most serious economic crisis since the 1990s, when, as a result of the collapse of the
Soviet bloc, Cubans suffered innumerable and lengthy blackouts due to the
severe shortage of oil, along with endemic malnutrition with its accompanying
The present economic crisis is due to the pandemic-related decline of
tourism, combined with the government’s long term capital disinvestment and
inability to maintain production, even at the lower levels of the last five years.
Cuba’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) fell by 11% in 2020 and only rose by 0.5% in 2019, the year before the
pandemic broke out. The annual sugar crop that ended this spring did not even
reach 1 million tons, which is below the 1.4 million average of recent
years and very far below the 8 million tons in 1989. The recent government attempt to unify the various
currencies circulating in Cuba — primarily the CUC, a proxy for the
dollar, and the peso — has backfired resulting in serious inflation that was predicted
among others by the prominent Cuban economist Carmelo Mesa-Lago. While the CUC
is indeed disappearing, the Cuban economy has been virtually dollarized with
the constant decline of the value of the peso. While the official exchange rate
is 24 pesos to the dollar, the prevailing black
market rate is 60 pesos to the dollar, and it is
going to get worse due to the lack of tourist dollars. This turn to an ever
more expensive dollar, may be somewhat restrained in light of the government’s
recent shift to the euro as its preferred hard currency.
Worst of all, is the generalized shortage of food, even for those who have divisas,
the generic term for hard currencies. The agricultural reforms of the last
years aimed at increasing domestic production have not worked because they are
inadequate and insufficient, making it impossible for the private farmers and
for the usufructuarios (farmers who lease land from the government for
20 year terms renewable for another 20 years) to feed the country. Thus, for example, the
government arbitrarily gives bank credits to the farmers for some things but
not for others, like for clearing the marabú, an invasive weed that is
costly to remove, but an essential task if crops are to grow. Acopio, the
state agency in charge of collecting the substantial proportion of the crop
that farmers have to sell to the state at prices fixed by the government is
notoriously inefficient and wasteful, because the Acopio trucks do not
arrive in time to collect their share, or because of the systemic indifference
and carelessness that pervade the processes of shipping and storage. This
creates huge spoilage and waste that have reduced the quality and quantity of
goods available to consumers. It is for reasons such as these that Cuba imports
70% of the food it consumes from various countries
including the United States (an exemption to the blockade was carved out in 2001 for the unlimited export of food and medicines to
Cuba but with the serious limitation that Cuba has to pay in cash before the
goods are shipped to the island.)
The Cuban economist Pedro Monreal has called attention to the overwhelming
millions of pesos that the government has dedicated to the construction of
tourist hotels (mostly in joint ventures with foreign capital) that even before
the pandemic were filled to well below their capacity, while agriculture is
starved of government investments. This unilateral choice of priorities by the
one-party state is an example of what results from profoundly undemocratic
practices. This is not a “flaw” of the Cuban
system any more than the relentless pursuit of profit is a “flaw” of American capitalism. Both bureaucracy and
the absence of democracy in Cuba and the relentless pursuit of profit in the
United States are not defects of but constitutive elements of
Similarly, oil has become increasingly scarce as Venezuelan oil shipments in
exchange for Cuban medical services have declined. There is no doubt that
Trump’s strengthening of the criminal blockade, which went beyond merely
reversing Obama’s liberalization during his second period in the White House,
has also gravely hurt the island, among other reasons because it has made it
more difficult for the Cuban government to use banks abroad, whether American
or not, to finance its operations. This is because the U.S. government will
punish enterprises who do business with Cuba by blocking them from doing
business with the United States. Until the events of July 11,the
Biden administration had left almost all of Trump’s sanctions untouched. Since
then, it has promised to allow for larger remittances and to provide staff for
the American consulate in Havana.
While the criminal blockade has been very real and seriously damaging, it
has been relatively less important in creating economic havoc than what lies at
the very heart of the Cuban economic system: the bureaucratic, inefficient and
irrational control and management of the economy by the Cuban government. It is
the Cuban government and its “left” allies in
the Global North, not the Cuban people, who continue, as they have for decades,
to blame only the blockade.
At the same time, the working class in the urban and rural areas have
neither economic incentives nor political incentives in the form of democratic
control of their workplaces and society to invest themselves in their work,
thus reducing the quantity and quality of production.
Health Situation in Cuba
After the Covid-19 pandemic broke out in the
early spring of 2020, Cuba did relatively well
during the first year of the pandemic in comparison with other countries in the
region. But in the last few months the situation in Cuba, for what are still
unclear reasons except for the entry of the Delta variant in the island, made
a sharp turn for the worse, and in doing so seriously aggravated the
economic and political problems of the country. Thus, as Jessica Domínguez
Delgado noted in the Cuban blog El Toque (July 13),
until April 12, a little more than a year
after the beginning of the pandemic, 467 persons had
died among the 87,385
cases that had been diagnosticated as having Covid-19.
But only three months later, on July 12, the number
of the deceased had reached 1,579
with 224, 914 diagnosed
cases (2.5 times as many
as in the much longer previous period).
The province of Matanzas and its capital city of the same name located 100 kilometers east of Havana became the epicenter of
the pandemic’s sudden expansion in Cuba. According to the provincial governor,
Matanzas province was 3,000
beds short of the number of patients that needed them. On July 6, a personal friend who lives in the city of
Matanzas wrote to me about the dire health situation in the city with
a lack of doctors, tests, and oxygen in the midst of collapsing hospitals.
My friend wrote that the national government had shown itself incapable of
controlling the situation until that very day when it finally formulated
a plan of action for the city. The government did finally take
a number of measures including sending a substantial number of additional
medical personnel, although it is too early to tell at the time of this writing
with what results.
Cuban scientists and research institutions deserve a lot of credit for
the development of several anti-Covid vaccines. However, the government was
responsible for the excessive and unnecessary delay in immunizing people on the
island, made worse by its decision to neither procure donations of vaccines
from abroad nor join the 190-nation strong COVAX
(Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access) sponsored by
several international organizations including the World Health Organization
(WHO), an organization with which the Cuban government has good relations.
Currently only 16% of the population has been fully
vaccinated and 30% has received at least one dose of
The medical crisis in the province and capital city of Matanzas fits into
a more general pattern of medical scarcity and abandonment as the Cuban
government has accelerated its export of medical personnel abroad to strengthen
what has been for some time its number one export. This is why the valuable
family doctor program introduced in the 1980s has
seriously deteriorated. While the Cuban government uses a sliding scale
(including some pro bono work) in what it charges its foreign government
clients, Cuban doctors get an average of 10 – 25% of what the foreign clients pay the Cuban government.
Needless to add, Cuban medical personnel cannot organize independent unions to
bargain with the government about the terms of their employment. Nevertheless,
going abroad is a desired assignment for most Cuban doctors because they
earn a significant amount of hard currency and can purchase foreign goods.
However, if they fail to return to Cuba after their assignments are over, they
are administratively (i.e., not judicially) punished with a forced exile
of 8 years duration.
The Political Context
Earlier this year, the leadership old guard, who fought the Batista regime
and are in their late eighties and early nineties, retired from their
government positions to give way to the new leadership of Miguel Díaz-Canel
(born in 1960) as president and Manuel Marrero Cruz
(born in 1963) as prime minister. This new
leadership is continuing Raúl Castro’s policy of economic and social
liberalization without democratization. For example, in 2013
the government liberalized the regulations that controlled the movement of
people to make it easier for most Cubans to travel abroad. However, at the same
time, the government made it virtually impossible for many dissidents to leave
the country, by for example delaying their departure so they could not make it
on time to conferences held abroad, and by creating a list of some 200 “regulados” (people
subject to regulatory rules) that are not allowed to leave the country at all.
It is important to point out that as in the case of other measures adopted by
the Cuban government mentioned earlier, these actions continue the policies of
Fidel and Raúl Castro, in which political and administrative decisions are made
outside of the regime’s own judicial system. The same applies to the hundreds
of relatively brief detentions that the government of Raúl Castro carried out
every year, especially to try to impede public demonstrations not controlled by
the government (a police method that only works for previously planned
political protests, unlike the ones that took place on July 11).
The One-Party State
The one-party state continues to function as under Fidel and Raúl Castro’s
rule. In reality, however, the Cuban Communist Party (PCC, its Spanish acronym)
is not really a party — that would imply the existence of other parties.
Neither is the PCC primarily an electoral party although it does firmly control
from the top the periodic so-called elections that always result in the
unanimous approval of the political course followed by the authorities.
Sometimes people disillusioned with the existing corrupt parties in Latin
America and even in the United States itself, react with indifference if not
approval to the Cuban one-party state because they perceive elections as
reinforcing corrupt systems. Thus such people think that is better to have one
honest political party that works than a corrupt multi-party system that
doesn’t work. The problem with this type of thinking is that one-party
bureaucratic systems do not work well at all, except perhaps to thoroughly
repress any opposition. Moreover, corruption sooner or later works its way into
the single party system as history has repeatedly shown. In the case of Cuba,
Fidel Castro himself warned in a famous speech on November 17, 2005, that the revolution
was in greater danger to perish because of endemic corruption than because of
the actions of counterrevolutionaries.
The organizational monopoly of the PCC — explicitly sanctioned by the Cuban
constitution — affects far more than elections. It extends its power in
a highly authoritarian manner to control Cuban society through the
so-called mass organizations that function as transmission belts for the
decisions taken by the PCC’s Political Bureau. For example, the CTC, the
official trade union, is the transmission belt that allows the Cuban state to
maintain its monopoly of the organization of Cuban workers. Beyond enforcing
the prohibition of strikes, the CTC is not an organization for the defense of
working class interests as determined by the workers themselves. Rather, it was
established to advance what the ruling PCC leadership determines are the
workers’ best interests.
The same control mechanisms apply to other “mass
organizations” such as the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) and to other
institutions such as editorial houses, universities and the rest of the educational
system. The mass media (radio, television and newspapers) continue to be under
the control of the government, guided in their coverage by the “orientations” of the Ideological Department of the
Central Committee of the PCC. There are however, two important exceptions to
the state’s control of media organs: one, is the internal publications of the
Catholic Church. Nevertheless, the Cuban Catholic hierarchy is extremely
cautious, and the circulation of its publications is in any case limited to its
parishes and other Catholic institutions. A far more important exception
is the Internet, which the government has yet been unable to place under its
absolute control and remains as the principal vehicle for critical and
dissident voices. It was precisely this less than full control of the Internet
that made the nationwide politically explosive outbreaks of July 11 possible.
Where is Cuba Going?
Without the benefit of Fidel Castro’s presence and the degree of legitimacy
retained by the historic leadership, Díaz-Canel and the other new government
leaders were politically hit hard by the events of July 11,
even though they received the shameful support of most of the broad
international Left. The fact that people no longer seem to be afraid may be the
single largest threat for the government emerging from the events on July 11. In spite of that blow, the new leadership is on course
to continue Raúl Castro’s orientation to develop a Cuban version of the
Sino-Vietnamese model, which combine a high degree of political
authoritarianism with concessions to private and especially
At the same time, the Cuban government leaders will continue to follow
inconsistent and even contradictory economic reform policies for fear of losing
control to Cuban private capital. The government recently authorized
the creation of private PYMES (small and medium private enterprises), but it
would not be at all surprising if many of the newly created PYMES end up in the
hands of important state functionaries turned private capitalists. There is an
important government stratum composed of business managers and technicians with
ample experience in such sectors as tourism, particularly in the military. The
most important among them is the 61-year-old Gen.
Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja, a former son-in-law of Raúl Castro, who
is the director of GAESA, the huge military business conglomerate, which
includes Gaviota, the principal tourist enterprise in the island. It is
significant that he recently became a member of the Political Bureau of
Perhaps this younger generation of business military and civilian
bureaucrats may try to overcome the rentier mentality that 30 years
of ample Soviet assistance created among the Cuban leadership as witnessed the
failure to modernize and diversify the sugar industry (as Brazil did) during
those relatively prosperous years that ended in 1990. To
be sure, the U.S. economic blockade contributed to the rentier mentality by
encouraging a day-to-day economic survival attitude rather than of
increasing the productivity of the Cuban economy to allow for a more
Finally, what about the United States? Biden is unlikely to do much in his
first term to change the United States’ imperialist policies towards Cuba that
were significantly aggravated by Trump. Whether a possible second
Democratic administration in Washington beginning in 2025
will do anything different remains an open question.
There is, however, a paradox underlying the U.S. government’s Cuba
policy. While U.S. policy is not at present primarily driven by ruling class
interests but, rather, by electoral considerations, particularly in the highly
contested state of Florida, it is not for that reason necessarily less harsh
or, what is more alarming, less durable. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, probably
the most politically active business institution in the United States has
advocated the resumption of normal business relations with Cuba for many years.
Thomas J. Donohue, its long-time director who retired earlier this year,
visited Cuba in numerous occasions and met with government leaders there. Big
agribusiness concerns are also interested in doing business with Cuba as are
agricultural and other business interests in the South, Southwest and Mountain
States represented by both Republican and Democratic politicians. However, it
is doubtful that they are inclined to expend a lot of political capital in
achieving that goal.
This places a heavy extra burden on the U.S. Left to overcome the
deadlock, which clearly favors the indefinite continuation of the blockade,
through a new type of campaign that both zeroes in on the grave aggression
and injustice committed against the Cuban people without at the same time
becoming apologists for the political leadership of the Cuban state.
Be that as it may, people on the Left in the United States have two key
tasks. First, they should firmly oppose the criminal economic blockade of Cuba.
Second, they should support the democratic rights of the Cuban people rather
than an ossified police state, in the same way that they have supported the
struggle for human rights, democracy, and radical social and economic change in
Colombia and Chile in Latin America as well as Myanmar and Hong Kong
HAVANA, June 21 (Reuters) – Cuba said on Monday its three-shot Abdala
vaccine against the coronavirus had proved 92.28% effective in last-stage
clinical trials. The announcement came
just days after the government said another homegrown vaccine, Soberana 2, had
proved 62% effective with just two of its three doses.
“Hit by the pandemic, our scientists at the Finlay Institute and
Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology have risen above all the
obstacles and given us two very effective vaccines,” President Miguel
The announcement came from state-run biopharmaceutical corporation
BioCubaFarma, which oversees Finlay, the maker of Soberana 2, and the Center
for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, the producer of Abdala. Both vaccines
are expected to be granted emergency authority by local regulators shortly.
Cuba, whose biotech sector has exported vaccines for decades, has five
coronavirus vaccine candidates.
The Caribbean’s largest island is facing its worst COVID-19 outbreak
since the start of the pandemic following the arrival of more contagious
variants, setting new records for daily coronavirus cases.
The Communist-run country has opted not to import foreign vaccines but
to rely on its own. Some experts said it was a risky bet but it appears to have
paid off, putting Cuba in position to burnish its scientific reputation,
generate much-needed hard currency through exports and strengthen the
vaccination drive worldwide.
Several countries from Argentina and Jamaica to Mexico, Vietnam 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.
Cuba’s authorities have already started administering the experimental
vaccines en masse as part of “intervention studies” they hope will
slow the spread of the virus. About a
million of the country’s 11.2 million residents have been fully vaccinated to
Daily cases have halved in the capital, Havana, since the start of the
vaccination campaign a month ago, using Abdala, according to official data. Cuba has reported a total of 169,365 COVID-19
cases and 1,170 deaths.
begun a mass Covid-19 vaccination drive using two homegrown shots before they
have full regulatory approval, after declaring a health emergency as cases
government said it aimed to vaccinate the entire adult population with its
Abdala and Soberana 2 shots. The programme began in Havana on Wednesday for
residents aged 60 years or older, with frontline workers in other provinces
also receiving the vaccines.
American Health Organization said this week that Cuba was driving most new
Covid-19 infections in the Caribbean. Although case rates in the
communist-ruled nation have been low by international standards, it recorded
its worst month for infections in April since the pandemic began, with 31,346
cases and 229 deaths among its 11m population. The number has continued to
creep up this month.
Angel Portal Miranda, public health minister, said he expected full approval
for both vaccines in June but that Cuban law allowed the step to be bypassed in
an emergency. “This makes it possible to initiate intervention in risk groups
and territories with Cuban vaccine candidates,” he said after announcing the
emergency last Friday.
phase 3 trials — the final stage before regulatory approval is normally sought
— ended on May 1 while those for Soberana 2 will be completed this weekend.
More than 300,000 Cubans have been vaccinated to date, including trial participants
and frontline workers.
health authorities say both shots have proved safe and highly effective but
have not released trial data.
opted not to join the World Health Organization-backed Covax vaccine
procurement facility or accept jabs from allies such as Russia and China. The
island nation has been manufacturing vaccines for years and authorities cite
long experience and a policy of not depending on others as behind the decision.
bankrupted by US economic sanctions and
the Covid-induced crisis, Cuba is suffering its worst economic crisis since the
collapse of the Soviet Union three decades ago. The economy declined 11 per
cent last year and local economists said it continued to lose ground during the
first quarter as the pandemic crippled tourism, which accounts for about 11 per
cent of gross domestic product.
Cuba’s vaccines require two doses, and a third booster shot has been added to
combat new variants of the virus.
Miranda said 70 per cent of the population would be vaccinated by September and
the remainder by the end of the year.
and medics preparing for vaccination on Wednesday expressed confidence in the
programme. Physiotherapist Vladimir Lahenes did not believe Abdala, named after
a famous poem by national revolutionary hero José Martí, which he was about to
receive in the Havana municipality of Playa de Este, would prove unsafe or
there’s lots of experience with Cuban vaccines. Everyone knows, everyone is
confident,” he said.
doctor Yolanda, who asked that her full name not be used, said she had been
preparing for weeks. “I have been giving Cuban vaccines forever. I’m already
vaccinated and very glad my patients will now be too,” she said.
Martínez Díaz, president of BioCubaFarma, the state pharmaceutical monopoly,
said last week that Cuba “will probably be the first country to immunise its
entire population with its own vaccine”.
Cuba is “betting it safe” with the later development of their own
Covid-19 vaccines and encouraged by what they’re seeing in late stage and experimental
studies, a top Cuban vaccine scientist said.
trials are successful, the relatively small, communist island of 11 million —
that has been sanctioned by the United States for decades — would be one of
just very few countries with vaccines to fight the coronavirus pandemic,
drawing worldwide attention to its potential feat.
countries that have developed vaccines, including the United States, the United
Kingdom, China, Russia and India, have significantly larger economies and
Cuba’s five vaccine candidates are in Phase 3 trials: Soberana 2, which
translates to ‘sovereignty,’ and Abdala, named after a book by the Cuban independence
hero José Martí.
44,000 people are getting the Soberana 2 vaccine as part of the Phase 3
double-blind study. An additional 150,000 health care workers are being
inoculated with Soberana 2 as part of an “interventional study.”
the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, the Soberana 2 uses
synthesized coronavirus proteins to trigger the body’s immune system.
seeing that the vaccine is very safe, the potential risk for applying it to
more people is decreasing, and the potential benefits are increasing. There is
evidence of certain efficacy and that is why we decided to expand the
interventional studies,” Dr. Vicente Verez, director of the Finlay Institute of
Vaccines, told NBC News. The institute is named after the Cuban epidemiologist
Dr. Carlos Finlay who discovered yellow fever is transmitted through
institute was established in 1991 by the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro who
invested heavily in the country’s health care system and pharmaceutical sector.
Its cancer research center developed a vaccine being tested in the United
States and other countries.
“we began a bit later than the rest of the vaccines [in the world] because we
had to wait and know a little more about the virus and the mechanism though
which it infects cells,” Verez said. “We are seeing a safety profile with the
vaccine [Soberana 2] that is very good.”
economy ravaged by the pandemic, decades of sanctions and a decline in aid from
its ally Venezuela, the island has been grappling with shortages in food and medicine.
Its economy shrank 11 percent in 2020. But it has managed to keep the number of
Covid-19 infections and deaths down with strict measures and lockdowns,
compared to many developed countries around the world. In recent weeks, the
country has averaged around 1,000 cases per day, but it had very low infection
rates last year.
results of the Phase 3 trials are not expected for months. The government’s
plan is to have nearly all the inhabitants of the capital, Havana, vaccinated
by May through the interventional study, and the entire country’s population
inoculated before the year ends.
said that while the vaccination won’t be mandatory, he thinks “the immense
majority of the population wants the vaccine.”
the vaccine is as much about public health as it is a show of force; that a
small communist country sanctioned by the U.S. can compete on the world stage
with its own vaccine candidates. Cuba
could have acquired vaccines from its allies, China and Russia, but developing
its own gives it the opportunity to sell vaccines to underdeveloped countries
that have seen few doses, giving it a source of badly-needed hard currency. As
U.S. and British vaccines advanced in clinical trials last year, wealthy countries in North America and Europe preordered
large quantities, leaving poor and developing countries with a large gap in
said some countries have approached Cuban officials with the intent to purchase
more than 100 million annual doses of some of its vaccines. He said Cuba’s
vaccine production system is being reorganized to produce 100 million doses. Iran, which banned U.S. and British vaccines,
will host a Phase 3 trial of Soberana 2 as part of an agreement
that includes producing millions of doses there. Venezuela will produce Abdala
vaccines, its government announced Thursday. Mexico and Argentina have also expressed interest
in Cuba’s vaccines.
very safe,” Dr. Eduardo Martínez Díaz, president of the state-run BioCubaFarma,
said in emailed responses to questions. “After applying thousands of doses,
only slight and moderate side effects were seen in a small percentage of
added that both vaccines are creating a high amount of immunity. If exported,
the prices would be affordable, he said.
Verez said the vaccines will be adapted to the new variants, and extra doses could be required to boost immunity.
Decía Jose Martí, nuestro héroe nacional, que
“En prever está todo el arte de salvar “, y además dijo
que “Gobernar es prever”.
Al parecer los modelos matemáticos de
pronósticos publicados por nuestras autoridades, hasta el presente, han
fallado, no se han cumplido y se han ignorado otras recomendaciones a las
cuales he tenido acceso producto de las preocupaciones que todos tenemos con
esta pandemia, por ejemplo de un INDICE de Alarma Epidemiológica (IAE) que
predice mejor el comportamiento que nos presentan, así como el ” Método estadístico matemático para identificar el estado de
la COVID-19 con relación al pico epidémico“ publicado en
este sitio ( tomado de la Revista Información Científica) de la autoría
del Profesor Javier Pérez Capdevila.
Ahora bien, no me detendré en las comparaciones,
pero evidentemente cuando se introdujo en los modelos oficiales, la
variable exógena que representaban la necesaria apertura de nuestras
fronteras y la incidencia de los visitantes externos, al parecer una vez más no
fueron correctos los pronósticos. Se trataba de prever (ex ante), y
las medidas previstas hacerlas cumplir. Sin embargo, con solo observar que
desde el 16 de diciembre del 2020, excepto un día, pasaban del centenar
el número de confirmados diarios, y ver que la última semana de diciembre 2020
ya era de 165 confirmados diarios como promedio, era suficiente para adoptar
las medidas correctoras días atrás. Así en los últimos 7 días de este
2021, en cinco días los casos diarios han sido por encima de 300, y los últimos
4 días es de 314, 344, 365 y 388 confirmados, además de los récords
lamentables, la cota máxima no sabemos hasta donde llegará. Deberían pedir
colaboración nuestras autoridades a los que tienen otros pronósticos y
metodos, para tomar las decisiones correctas en tiempo real. Las
ciencias matemáticas en estos momentos juegan un papel fundamental,
Ayer se comunicaron varios retrocesos a diferentes
fases en las provincias más comprometidas con el rebrote, la Habana paso a fase
I de recuperación , cuando se encontraba en la III.
El presente escrito solo pretende llamar la
atención, con los gráficos elaborados , de la gravedad en que nos
encontramos, porque al final esto es tarea de todos. He vistopor ejemplo,
en otros países en colas a los super que guarda distancia de 1.5 m para
entrar entre las personas, e incluso es uno solo por familia y no pueden entrar
los menores. En nuestro país, son “molotes” fuera de las tiendas.¿?
Los gráficos a continuación y tablas son
elaboración propia con datos del MINSAP.
Como se observa en el gráfico # 1 desde el día uno de la pandemia, muestra que
este tercer rebrote hasta ayer, es casi 5 veces mayor que el momento
peor del primero, y que la línea de tendencia polinómica de grado 4
(roja) de excel va en ascenso. Aquí es donde se requieren los
Los Activos acumulados diarios ( los que tienen la
enfermedad y no se han recuperado) en el gráfico # 2 y su línea de tendencia,
se han incrementado desde la anterior cota máxima de 847 activos el 25 de abril
del 2020 en el primer brote , en 2.99 veces, significando , al no incrementarse
el número de fallecidos, que el tiempo de hospitalización- recuperación es
menor ( días) ¿ nuevo protocolo médico ?. Sin embargo, no se publican los
casos activos por provincias como una información oficial del MINSAP. El
día cero de casos activos, parece cada vez más lejos, primero hay que aspirar a
casos cero de confirmados durante días, y desde que empezó la Covid en nuestro
país solo hemos tenido un día con caso cero, el 19 de julio del 2020,
esa es la meta a lograr, otra vez.
Observar que la tasa de incidencia con importados
(azul) y sin (azul) del gráfico # 3 del MINSAP , desde que empezó la pandemia
eran similares, sin embargo hay una diferencia que inició diciembre
-enero , y esto demuestra dos cosas 1- la tasa de incidencia con los casos
importados es mucho mayor que la autóctona,y 2- que sin los importados
(roja) no obstante, hay igualmente un incremento de la tasa de incidencia, es
decir el incremento se dio aunque no se hubieran abierto las fronteras.
At the June 2020 Annual Meeting, Council of Canadians’ members voted to endorse and promote a Canadian nominating process for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize to go the Henry Reeve medical teams from Cuba for their international work in the context of COVID-19.
In 2005, Cuba’s leaders looked ahead and saw a world increasingly beset by pandemics and natural disasters. This led them to initiate a program to train professional medical personnel to be able to respond quickly to emergency requests from other nations. This initiative resulted in the mobilization of thousands of Cuban medical personnel with the skills and training to deal with a variety of global calamities, known as the Henry Reeve brigades.
When COVID-19 hit in 2020, Cuba responded to emergency requests for trained medical personnel by sending 53 health teams to 39 countries on four continents. The health teams were able to assist countries with fragile health systems that were ill-equipped to deal with COVID-19.
Cuba’s response to COVID-19 eclipses all other front-line efforts from industrialized nations in the fight against COVID-19. This response is more remarkable given that the island nation has been under a decades-long embargo by the United States of America. The U.S. State Department has made it known since the beginning of the pandemic that they might retaliate against any country receiving Cuban medical personnel. Only one country has capitulated to these threats from the U.S., and that country is Canada.
We are fortunate to have Dr. John Kirk as the nominator. As an expert on Cuba’s humanitarian efforts and its medical internationalism and a professor at Dalhousie University’s Department of Spanish and Latin American Studies, Dr. Kirk easily meets all of the strict requirements outlined by Oslo for those individuals heading up a nomination process for the Nobel Peace Prize. Read Dr. Kirk’s nomination.
The Council of Canadians fully supports this nomination effort, and are honoured to be working in solidarity with the endorsers listed below.
Individual Canadian endorsers for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize Nomination for the international work of Cuban medical personnel
The Hon. Lloyd Axworthy – Canadian politician, elder statesman and academic served as Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs under P.M. Chretien, invested as a Companion of the Order of Canada and honoured at a sacred pipe ceremony as Waappski Pinaysee Inini (Free Range Frog Man), Chair of the World Refugee Council, among other prestigious international and academic positions;
Dr. Anna Banerji – Pediatrics and infectious disease specialist and Associate Professor at University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine, Faculty lead for Indigenous and Refugee Health, invested in the Order of Ontario, 2014 Women’s Courage Award International, among other citations;
Jane Bunnett – Flautist, saxophonist and bandleader and jazz legend is a five-time Juno Award winner, invested in The Order of Canada and has more than a dozen albums featuring Cuban music, jazz, and classical as well as dance and pop music;
John Cartwright – Chairperson of the Council of Canadians Board of Directors and a long-time labour leader and social justice advocate. He is also the President of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council, and over the years helped develop the Campaign for Public Education, Public Transit for the Public Good, the Toronto Waterwatch and Toronto Hydro campaigns as well as crafting the “Green Jobs Strategy” for the Canadian Labour Congress.
George Elliot Clarke – Canadian poet, playwright and literary critic, known for chronicling the experience and history of the Black Canadian communities of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick (“Africadia”), has served as Poet Laureate of Toronto and Canadian Parliamentary Poet Laureate, appointed to the Order of Nova Scotia and as an Officer of the Order of Canada, and has received many other distinctions;
Bruce Cockburn – Canadian roots-rock legend, 13-time Juno Award winner, Officer of the Order of Canada, recipient of the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement, recipient of the environmental Earth Day Award, and many others honours;
Elizabeth Hay – Prize winning author of numerous novels, short stories, non fiction and essays. Among many honours, she was the co-winner of the Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction, received the Ottawa Book Award, won the Giller Prize in 2007, was accorded the 2012 Diamond Jubilee Medal, and most recently won the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction. Elizabeth worked for ten years as a CBC radio broadcaster in Yellowknife, and also did radio documentaries for CBC’s Sunday Morning.
The Rt. Hon. Michaelle Jean – Canadian stateswoman, journalist and a refugee from Haiti, was the 27th Governor General of Canada and the third Secretary-General of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, named member of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada, and has received many Appointments, Medals, and Awards as well as multiple Honorary degrees;
Dr. Noni E. MacDonald – Paediatrics infectious disease specialist and Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Dalhousie University, invested in the Order of Nova Scotia and in the Order of Canada, and recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Canadian Society for International Health, among other honours;
MP Elizabeth May – Canadian politician who served as leader of the Green Party of Canada from 2006 to 2019. An environmentalist, author, activist and lawyer, May founded and served as Executive Director of the Sierra Club of Canada from 1989 to 2006. Elizabeth has been an officer of the Order of Canada since 2005, and has been named by the United Nations as one of the leading women environmentalists worldwide, among other citations.
Senator Pierrette Ringuette – The first francophone woman to be elected to the Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick. In the 1993 federal election she won a seat in the House of Commons of Canada as a Liberal Member of Parliament. In 2002 she was appointed to the Senate on the recommendation of Prime Minister Jean Chretien. In 2007 she received the grade of Officer of the Ordre de la Pleiade in recognition of her contribution to the development of francophone and Acadian culture. In 2016 she chose to sit as part of the Independent Senators Group. Senator Ringuette continues to be a member of several standing committees and is currently a Counselor of The Inter-Parliamentary Forum of the Americas, Co-Chair of the Canada-Cuba Inter-Parliamentary Group.
Svend Robinson – Canadian politician and Member of Parliament for the New Democratic Party, a strong environmentalist and outspoken advocate for the rights of indigenous peoples both in Canada and internationally, he was adopted into the Haida Nation (“White Swan”), J.S. Woodsworth Resident Scholar at Simon Fraser University, and among several awards…the Elena Iberoamerican Award on Ethics and the Hero Award, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity;
David T. Suzuki – Canadian academic, science broadcaster and environmental activist is a Companion of the Order of Canada and invested in the Order of British Columbia, recipient of the Right Livelihood Award and has been awarded honorary degrees from over two dozen universities around the world, and is the host the CBC’s long running series The Nature of Things;
Organizational Canadian endorsers for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize Nomination for the international work of Cuban medical personnel
As the cold winter looms, along with the dreaded “second wave” of COVID-19, Canadians are faced with some alarming facts. While pleased that our infection and death rates are only half those found in the United States, we are doing poorly compared with one country barely mentioned in our media: Cuba. Their death rate (adjusted to population differences) is roughly 1/25 what ours is, while Canadians are ten times more likely to become infected by the virus than Cubans.
How did they manage to do this? Is there anything that we can learn from them?
The world is in a parlous state. There is the possibility that 500,000 Americans might die by February. The intensive care wards are rapidly filling up in Europe. In Canada, we are now hitting almost 1,000 new cases daily in the two most populous provinces of the country, Ontario and Quebec.
Yet, Cuba has managed to control the situation there, with fewer than 7,000 people infected and 128 dead. It has also faced, and curbed, a second wave of infections. Cubans are also over 40 times less likely to contract the virus than people in the United States. Countries of a similar size to Cuba offer interesting data in terms of fatalities. As of October 25, Cuba has experienced 128 deaths, compared with 10,737 in Belgium, 2,081 in Switzerland, 2,297 in Portugal, 5,933 in Sweden, and 1,390 in Hungary.
While there are some aspects of the Cuban model that are not transferable to Canada – largely because of radically different political systems – there are things that we can learn from them.
Cuba is fortunate that it is a small country, with 11.2 million people in an island about twice the surface area of Nova Scotia. It also has an excellent healthcare system, with three times the number of physicians per capita as Canada – the highest rate in the world. Its system emphasizes preventive medicine, as opposed to the curative approach used here. The Cubans moved with enormous speed to limit COVID-19, in part because of a finely tuned system to respond to natural disasters.
When COVID arrived in the island in March, brought by Italian tourists, the government decided to forego the funds derived from the tourism industry, and closed the island to tourists. Healthcare for all was deemed far more important than economic growth.