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Since the beginning of the pandemic, President Diaz-Canel's administration made the development of COVID-19 vaccines a major policy priority.
As of Feb. 4, 2022, Cuba became the third country with the highest number of people immunized with at least one COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Oxford University's data base. The United Arab Emirates and Portugal ranked first and second, respectively.
“This data shows the feats of a vaccination campaign whereby over 10,5 billion people have been immunized with Abdala, Sovereign 02, and Sovereign Plus, the Cuban COVID-19 vaccines” said Ileana Morales, the director of Science & Technological Innovation at the Health Ministry (MINSAP).
President Miguel Diaz-Canel's administration made the development of coronavirus vaccines a major priority because it did not want to rely on the whims of international pharmaceutical corporations to fight the pandemic.
To speed production, scientists from the Center for Genetical Engineer & Biotechnology (CIGB) and the Finlay Vaccine Institute (IFV) developed protein subunit conjugate vaccines, which combine a portion of the SARS-CoV-2 virus with existing locally produced Hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenza vaccines.
"The results were very effective since the Abdala and Sovereign Plus vaccines proved to have an efficacy rate of over 90 percent in clinical trials conducted in Cuba and Venezuela,” recalled Amilcar Perez, a Brazil-based Cuban virologist.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has not yet certified the Abdala, Sovereign 02, and the Sovereign Plus vaccines as suitable products to treat coronavirus patients. Despite this, Venezuela, Vietnam, Iran, and Nicaragua approved their use for emergency cases and imported doses for their national immunization campaigns.
"It was difficult to get there, but we did it. The difficulty, as so many times throughout history, became an opportunity," Morales stated, recalling that Cuba will begin to export its vaccines to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) countries once it obtains the WHO certification.