Some 200 COVID-19 vaccines are being developed worldwide, and 23 candidates have advanced to phase III clinical trials (as of 25 March 2021). Though no other Latin American country has developed a vaccine of its own, two of the 23 now in phase III trials are Cuban: Soberana 02 and Abdala. And Cuba also has three other vaccine candidates in earlier stage trials: Soberana 01, Soberana Plus, and Mambisa. So how has Cuba managed to develop five COVID-19 vaccines in such a short time?
Cuba’s biotech sector is unique. It is entirely state-owned and free of private interests, with innovation channelled to meet public health needs and no profit-seeking in the domestic market. Dozens of research and development institutions collaborate, sharing resources and knowledge instead of competing, which facilitates a fast track from research and innovation to trials and application. Cuba has the capacity to produce 60-70% of the medicines it consumes domestically, an imperative due to the US blockade and the cost of medicines in the international market. There is also continuous and comprehensive circulation of information and personnel between universities, research centres, and the public health system. These various elements have proven vital in the development of Cuba’s COVID-19 vaccines.
How do Cuba’s COVID-19 vaccines work?
There are five types of COVID-19 vaccines being developed globally:
Viral vector vaccines that use an unrelated and harmless virus modified to deliver SARS-CoV-2 genetic material (as with the Oxford AstraZeneca and Gamaleya SputnikV vaccines)
mRNA (messenger ribonucleic acid) vaccines which teach cells to make a protein that triggers an immune response (Pfizer, Moderna)
Inactivated vaccines containing deactivated SARS-CoV-2 virus (Sinovac/Butantan, SinoPharm, Bharat Biotec)
Attenuated vaccines containing weakened SARS-CoV-2 virus (Codagenix)
Protein vaccines containing COVID-derived proteins that trigger an immune response (Novavax, Sanofi/GSK)Cuba’s Five COVID-19 Vaccines – Global ResearchGlobal Research – Centre for Research on Globalization