[Many thanks to Peter Jordens for providing all related links.] The full title of this article is “Cuba Gears Up to Start COVID-19 Vaccination – Jab from Caribbean Neighbour Not On The Cards For Ja, Says Tufton.” Erica Virtue (Jamaica Gleaner) reports:
Before Jamaica gets its shipment of COVID-19 vaccines next year, Cuba could well inoculate half of its 11 million citizens against the virus which has crippled global economies, trade and travel for much of 2020, leaving behind a staggering death toll.
Jamaica’s closest neighbour currently has eight vaccines designed to provide protection against 13 diseases, including COVID-19, and is well under way with clinical trials for drugs developed to fight the deadly coronavirus.
Dr José Armando Villamarin, who heads the Cuban medical mission in Jamaica, said the Spanish-speaking country’s medical brigades fighting the virus around the world, including those in Jamaica, will be among the first to be vaccinated. “Cuba expects that in the first semester of next year, a significant part of the Cuban population will be vaccinated against COVID-19,” he said, boasting that the country has a strong history in biotechnology. “It is no coincidence that Cuba was the first country in Latin America and the Caribbean to have a vaccine candidate against COVID-19 in the clinical trials phase.”
The country has two drugs – Sovereign 01 and 02 – among the 47 candidates registered with the World Health Organization (WHO) to fight the pandemic. The Cuban vaccines do not require storage at extremely low temperatures. “Soberana 01 and Soberana 02 are two different vaccines,” explained Villamarin. “Both Sovereigns 01 and 02 use the same antigen, produced by a cell known as CHO. This antigen is obtained through conventional biotechnological production at the Center for Molecular Immunology. The difference is that Soberana 02 is a conjugate vaccine, in which the virus antigen and tetanus toxoid are combined.” In the case of Soberana 02, Cuba was strengthening an existing vaccine “whose viability of the tetanus toxoid vaccine has been proven”, while Mambisa (CIGB 669) is a nasal spray with effect to block the transmission of the virus from its access to the body through the epithelial cells of the nose, he said.
Vaccine producers hope their drugs will grant short-, medium- or long-term immunity. The current influenza vaccine must be taken annually and is recommended for vulnerable groups within populations, such as the elderly with co-morbidities, on whom COVID-19 has taken a heavy toll. Villamarin said only time will determine the period and frequency of immunity of the vaccines under clinical trial there.
“Practice is the evaluative criterion of truth. That is why clinical trials are done and these trials can last for years. Only a prolonged study in time can help scientists to determine, with certainty, the duration of the effects of the vaccine; that is, if those inoculated will be immunised temporarily or permanently,” he told The Sunday Gleaner.
Six persons contacted by our news team last week, who have either studied or sought medical care in Cuba, said they would be willing to take a vaccine developed by the Caribbean country. “Anything Cuba is giving to Cubans, I am willing to take. Once there is a way to get it, I am going to get it,” said a Jamaican, who said that at one point, “Jamaican medical professionals gave me up for dead until I went to Cuba. See me here, 100 per cent recovered,” he said, asking that his condition not be disclosed.
Others said they were reading with interest the information on the vaccines from that country, some saying that “if needs be”, they will go there to get it.
As for its availability on a wider scale to Jamaicans, Villamarin said that was a decision for the Jamaican Government. “I believe that this question should be asked of the Jamaican authorities, which are empowered to decide on the use or not of any drug or vaccine in the country and its administration protocols. Cuba is very respectful of that right,” he told The Sunday Gleaner.
Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton said the Cuban vaccine was not an option for Jamaica currently. “As of now, our vaccine options are confined to the COVAX facility that we have signed on to and coordinated by the WHO/PAHO (Pan American Health Organization). That would include Moderna, not Pfizer or the Cuban vaccines. The situation could change over time, but this is the current status and is based on our dependence on a few factors, including WHO to validate the vaccine trials, ensuring we get access to vaccine when available, and support on pricing,” Tufton said yesterday.
He acknowledged Jamaica’s strong relationship with Cuba in the area of health, but said the area of immunisation is not one of those areas. Jamaicans wishing to take the Cuban vaccine cannot be prevented, he told The Sunday Gleaner. [. . .]
[Photo above: “Nurse Adrick McDowe-Reid (right) prepares Dr José Armando Arronte Villamarin (left), head of Cuban medical services in Jamaica, for a blood donation in this January 2019 photo. Villamarin says Cuba’s medical missions around the world will be among the first of the country’s citizens to be inoculated when it starts its COVID-19 vaccination programme.”]
Here is more related news:
Cuba inmunizará a su población contra covid-19 con vacuna propia en 6 meses
AFP, December 29, 2020
Cuba inmunizará a toda su población con una vacuna propia
RFI, December 30, 2020