By Elio Delgado Legon
HAVANA TIMES – In the first few months of this year, many papers of the so-called “great worldwide press” found the need (journalistically-speaking) to publish what is happening in Cuba regarding its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. This included the development of new medicines to treat patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes the disease), as well as potential vaccines, with eyes set on erradicating transmission and protecting the Cuban people and every other country that needs it, especially the underdeveloped world.
In early April, Cuba already had five potential vaccines, two of which are in the third and final phase of clinical trials, with very promising results, both in their safety as well as immunogenicity.
The other three are in phase 1 and 2 of clinical trials, and they are also showing positive results, up until the time of writing this article.
The first two, called Soberana-02 and Abdala, are being developed in phase 3 and are being administered to thousands of volunteers all over the country. Furthermore, controlled experimental studies have begun, bearing in mind results up until the present, which involve all Health personnel and other at-risk groups, which account for 1.7 million in Havana alone, and then they will extend to the rest of the country.
In the meantime, once the regulatory body gives its approval, labs that manufacture vaccines have the conditions needed to manufacture (before August) the number of doses necessary to vaccinate the entire population, and they will continue to produce in order to supply many other countries that have already requested this help.
The fact alone that Cuba has developed five potential vaccines with different characteristics, that will soon become five vaccines against the SARS-CoV-2 virus (that causes COVID-19), is enough for us to give Cuban science a positive assessment.
However, this isn’t the only feat of Cuban science that allows us to claim that our country reaches the level of the developed world, as it is the only underdeveloped country that has managed to get these results in investigating and creating COVID-19 vaccines.
It’s impossible to include all of Cuba’s scientific breakthroughs in this article, but I will try and summarize the most important. Cuba is a small, poor country that has been suffering the US government’s blockade for 60 years already. However, the development of the education sector, from the earliest years of education to universities, allows us to train researchers and scientists who have taken on the task of searching for solutions to many of the problems created by the blockade and its restrictions.
For example, when Cuba tried to buy ventilators for Intensive Care units in hospitals that treat COVID-19 patients, it didn’t find any suppliers, as the ones who normally supplied the country refused to sell them out of fear of US sanctions. However, Cuban scientists got busy working on the subject and have manufactured different models of ventilators – invasive and non-invasive -and Cuba no longer has to solely rely upon imports of this equipment.
In terms of vaccines, the island has reached a stage of development that no other underdeveloped country has managed. For example, every Cuban child is vaccinated against 13 diseases, and eight of these vaccines are manufactured locally.
Therapeutic vaccines have also been created against different kinds of cancer, such as CIMAVAX-EGFhr and Vaxira against lung disease, which have sparked the interest of US scientists, as they haven’t managed to create anything similar yet.
So as not to make this article too long, I will only mention some of the products of Cuban Science that have been awarded the Gold Medal from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). I can say that this in itself is a heroic deed, as it’s incredible that a small and underdeveloped country, that is being subjected to an ironclad economic, commercial and financial embargo, has managed to make such renowned scientific breakthroughs.
The first Cuban product to be awarded the WIPO’s Gold Medal was the Cuban meningococcal B vaccine, in 1989. It was created by a group of researchers from the Finlay Institute of Vaccines, under the direction of doctor Concepcion Campa Huergo.
It also received the important award for Policosanol, known as PPG, in 1996; in 2000, for the antibiotic for veterinary use “Biocida”; in 2002, the humanized monoclonal antibody CIMAher, from the Center of Molecular Immunology (CIM).
Other inventions that have won the WIPO’s Gold Medal have been: the vaccine against Haemophilus influenzae type B, as well as the lung surfactant “Surfacen”, for treating Respiratory Distress Syndrome in newborns.
I can also mention the Heberprot P drug, for treating diabetic foot, which has prevented thousands of amputations in Cuba and many countries worldwide.
There are others I won’t cite here, but if my readers would like to learn more about Cuban scientific breakthroughs, they can search for these online.