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Wed May 5, 2021, 11:44 PM

Cuba punches above its weight to develop its own Covid vaccines

Island hit by biggest economic crisis since the collapse of the Soviet Union has two vaccines in phase three clinical trials

Ed Augustin in Havana
Tue 4 May 2021 10.06 EDT

Hit by the double whammy of US sanctions and a pandemic, Cuba is going through its gravest economic crisis since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Pharmacy shelves are barren. People queue for hours to buy chicken. It’s hard to find bread.

And yet this island under siege could become the smallest country in the world to develop its own coronavirus vaccines. Of the 27 coronavirus vaccines in final stage testing around the world, two are Cuban.

“To have our sovereignty we need our own vaccines,” said Dr Vicente Vérez, director of the Finlay Institute, which has developed Sovereign 2, the most advanced of the country’s five vaccine candidates. “In nine months we have gone from an idea to a vaccine in phase three clinical trials.”

About 44,000 volunteers in Havana are currently participating in phase three trials for Sovereign 2. A similar number in the eastern city of Santiago are volunteering for phase three for Abdala, a vaccine named after a poem by José Martí, the island’s official “national hero”.


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