By Carlena Knight
Despite the Cuban vaccine boasting an efficacy rate of over 90 percent, government officials here have shared that there are presently no moves to acquire any doses at this time.
In fact, Cabinet Spokesman Melford Nicholas explained during the post-Cabinet press briefing on Thursday that the government would be interested in securing some doses, but due to several reasons could not see that happening any time this year.
“There’s two factors that will allow us to be able to have the Cuban vaccine. One would be availability in the first instance and the other would be the approval process and in neither case have we had such engagement. You will be aware that the Cuban population, some 11.2 million persons are in fact having to come to grips with their own public health environment and in the old saying ‘pastor much christen his pickney fuss’ so, I imagine that the application of the Cuban vaccines would of course satisfy the national needs of Cuba,” Nicholas explained.
“Beyond that, if vaccines were to be made available from the Cuban government to us, even on a commercial basis, certainly we would want to avail ourselves with those as well but that is not yet with us and in any case, I think that is probably not going to be before next year,” he added.
On July 7, Cuba approved its home-grown Abdala vaccine for emergency use, the first Latin American coronavirus jab to reach this stage.
Cuba’s Center for State Control of Medicines and Medical Devices (CECMED) health regulator gave the go-ahead after Abdala’s makers in June announced the vaccine candidate was more than 92 percent effective at preventing Covid-19 disease after three doses.
Cuba is working on five coronavirus vaccines, and in May started immunising its population using two of them — Abdala and Soberana 2 — even before they received approval.
The country has not bought or sought vaccines from elsewhere, and aims to immunise its population before the end of the year.
The CECMED said approval of Abdala was based on its analysis that it met requirements for “quality, safety and effectiveness.”
And Aica Laboratories, where the vaccine is produced, said there had been “a rigorous process of evaluation of the dossier and … inspections of the plants involved.”
Under American sanctions, communist Cuba has a long tradition of making its own vaccines, dating back to the 1980s. Nearly 80 percent of its inoculations are produced locally.
So far, a quarter of Cuba’s 11.2 million inhabitants have been inoculated with its two most advanced vaccines.
Cuba has become a global pandemic hot spot with the fourth-highest rate of infections per person in the world.
Cases continue to trend upwards, pushing the country’s impoverished health system to the brink of collapse.
Almost 100,000 people are currently admitted into hospitals and other health facilities because they tested positive or doctors suspect they contracted coronavirus.
Earlier this month, President Joe Biden had said he was willing to send vaccines to Cuba if he was assured an international organization would administer them — a requirement that was a non-starter for the Cuban government, which routinely rejects international oversight.