This year, Cuba will produce 100 million doses of its new Soberana 02 coronavirus vaccine to meet its internal demand and those of other countries, a leading Cuban scientist reported on Wednesday.
“We are reorganizing our production capacities because we really have a lot of demand for the vaccine and we have to prepare ourselves,” Vicente Vérez, director of the Finlay Institute, told a group of journalists at a conference in which he gave a tour of the laboratory where the vaccine against COVID-19 is manufactured.
The Finlay Institute has created both Soberana 02 and Soberana 01, the latter in a less advanced research phase. Other biotechnology centers on the island are working on two more vaccine candidates, Abdala and Mambisa.
The 100 million doses planned would be only of Soberana 02. There are already countries interested in acquiring it, such as Vietnam, Iran, and Venezuela, among others, with which the island has collaboration agreements, including Pakistan and India, Vérez said.
This week began the second part of a Phase II trial of this product with 900 patients — who joined about a hundred from the first stage — at a polyclinic in the capital; The Associated Press reported the day before.
The volunteers — one group of whom received a placebo as part of the study, although they will be immunized with the actual vaccine once it is over — said they reported no discomfort. Even some neighbors at the polyclinic came forward to volunteer as part of the trial.
After being injected, people–ranging in age from 19 to 80 years–waited at the same polyclinic before returning home and were followed up at 24, 48, and 72 hours.
Vérez stressed that the antigen is safe after pointing out that it does not contain the live virus. Still, parts of it, so—according to the expert—its placement generates immunity but does not cause significant reactions and therefore does not need extra refrigeration, like other candidates in the world.
Meanwhile, Finlay’s researchers are working with countries such as Italy and Canada to verify the impact of these vaccines -especially Soberana 01- on people who have already had COVID-19 and are convalescent but at risk of reinfection. Effectiveness is also being assessed for the impact of new mutations such as the one described in Great Britain, Japan, or California.
Over the next few weeks, vaccination will be extended to 150,000 people on the island, confirmed Vérez, on the way to mass immunization, and a test will be carried out in February to protect children with Soberana 02, he said.
After several months of keeping the pandemic under control, Cuba suffered a resurgence at the beginning of this year, after the opening of its airports and despite having a preventive health protocol. From March to date, 19,122 infections and 180 deaths have accumulated on the island.
The scientist did not offer details of the price that the vaccine will have for its sale to other countries. In Cuba, its administration will be free and voluntary.
Despite being a small country, Cuba has a developed scientific pole that produces almost all the vaccines it needs and state-of-the-art medicines.
“Cuba’s strategy of commercializing the vaccine has a combination of humanity and impact on health and the need of our system to sustain (financially) the production of vaccine and medicines for the country,” expressed Vérez.
“We are not a multinational where the (financial) return is the number one reason,” he added. “We work the other way around; creating more health and return is a consequence; it will never be the priority.”