With a long history of developing and exporting vaccines, Cuba began late-phase trials of two of its five candidates this month, Soberana 2 and Abdala, which, if successful, will be Latin America’s first homegrown COVID-19 vaccines.
The Public Health Ministry’s director of science and technological innovation, Ileana Morales, said on a roundtable broadcast that authorities would conduct an intervention study in 1.7 million people in Havana by May.
Cuba Seeks to Produce All COVID-19 Vaccines Required by August
This comes on top of trials; it has already started for 150,000 frontline workers in the city, with nearly 2.1 million inhabitants.
Cuba’s capital is at the center of its worst coronavirus outbreak since the start of the pandemic, with 292 cases per 100,000 inhabitants compared to the nationwide average of 103.5, Carilda Peña, Deputy Health Minister, said.
Abdala and Soberana 2, which both target the novel coronavirus's spike protein, could receive approval for emergency use in June, Morales said.
“With the approval of emergency use...we would be on track to a more massive vaccination of the population,” said Morales.
"The continuity of the path towards mass vaccination of the Cuban population against #COVID19 is a fact. Authorities from @MINSAPCuba, @BioCubaFarma, @CIGBCuba, @FinlayInstituto at the #MesaRedonda."
Morales said that mass vaccination would start with the most at-risk groups, including the over-60 age group and health care workers. By August, six million people should have received a vaccine, with all Cuba’s 11 million inhabitants vaccinated by December 2021, she confirmed.
Cuba has registered 600 to 1,000 new cases a day, well above the scores or a handful per day for most of last year. Since the pandemic started, the country has reported 68,250 cases and 401 deaths, one of the world's lowest rates per capita.
The Caribbean island nation developed a large biotech sector partly to become self-sufficient in the face of the crippling U.S. blockade. Venezuela and Iran, which also suffer from U.S. sanctions, say they will also trial the Cuban COVID-19 vaccines, which have also piqued the interest of countries in the region, such as Mexico and Jamaica.