Cuba Can’t Test Its Own Vaccine Because Not Enough People Have COVID
Cuba has so few coronavirus cases of its own that it is having to turn to Iran to test its most advanced vaccine candidate.
Cuba’s state-run Finlay Vaccine Institute (IFV) is among the numerous institutions working on a vaccine to help stem the pandemic, but it hit a roadblock ahead of its Phase 3 clinical trial due to a lack of cases.
According to Johns Hopkins University, the country has reported a total of 15,007 cases and 153 deaths among its population of 11 million – roughly one-tenth of the global average figures.
In order to move forward with the development of the Sovereign 02 vaccine, IFV signed an agreement with the Pasteur Institute of Iran to allow Phase 3 testing to go ahead in Iran.
In a statement on Twitter, the IFV said the trials would ‘allow us to advance faster in immunization against COVID-19 in both countries’.
Last month, IFV director Vicente Verez acknowledged that it has been difficult to do Phase 3 clinical testing in Cuba because its outbreak has not been as serious as those in many larger countries. He added that the Sovereign 02 shows ‘an early immune response (at 14 days)’.
Cuba hopes to have its entire population immunised with its own vaccines within the first six months of 2021. The country’s Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology is also working on two other vaccine candidates, called Mambisa and Abdala, for potential use.
Cuba increased its coronavirus restrictions following ‘irresponsible partying’ over New Year, with new containment measures including the suspension of interprovincial transport, cultural activities and the use of public spaces throughout the night, Reuters reports.
The country found success in its response to the pandemic as authorities did not hesitate to enforce strict measures to stem the spread of the virus. Citizens faced fines for wearing face masks incorrectly in public and tens of thousands of medics were commanded to ‘actively screen’ all homes on the island for coronavirus cases.
Gail Reed, editor in chief of the journal MEDICC Review, put the success of the measures down to Cuba’s evidence-based approach to the outbreak.
Speaking to The Guardian, she said:
Their real success has been applying the most important public health measures that physicians around the world know are effective. And they’ve had the political will to make it work.
The decision to trial the Sovereign 02 vaccine in Iran comes after Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, branded US and British-produced vaccines as ‘completely untrustworthy’. Both the US and the UK have approved and started administering vaccinations to residents.
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CreditsReuters and 2 others
Finlay Vaccine Institute/Twitter