By Alfredo Boada Mola
Cuba and its scientists are celebrating in the midst of the country’s battle against the Covid-19 pandemic as its Abdala vaccine candidate showed 92.28 per cent efficacy in the final results of a phase III trial using a three-dose vaccination schedule.
The Caribbean island is the first Latin American country to present its own vaccine against the coronavirus, with five projects at different stages of research.
The Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB) in Havana developed the Abdala and Mambisa vaccines (the latter is for nasal administration), while Soberana 1, Soberana 2 and Soberana Plus are produced by the Finlay Institute in the Cuban capital. All are protein subunit vaccines, composed of a synthetic fraction of the SARS-CoV-2 S protein, the so-called RBD (receptor binding domain).
The effectiveness of the Cuban Abdala vaccine puts it well above the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) requirement of at least 50 percent efficacy and places it among the best performing vaccines in the world against Covid-19.
Abdala is at par with vaccines produced in major laboratories in the world’s richest countries, which are researching on the basis of billions of dollars in funding, a chimera for Cuba amid the intensification during the current pandemic of the fierce economic, commercial and financial blockade unleashed by the United States for six decades.
Novavax of the United States tops the list with 96 percent vaccine efficacy, followed by Pfizer (US/Germany) with 95 percent; Moderna (US) with 94 percent and Abdala of Cuba ranked fourth with 92.28 percent. In fifth place is Sputnik V (Russia) with 91.6 percent.
The island’s Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical Industries Business Group, BioCubaFarma, stated that ‘Cuba will have two vaccines that meet the minimum clinical efficacy requirements declared by the WHO’, as previously the Finlay Vaccine Institute in Havana managed to develop the Soberana 02 vaccine with 62 percent efficacy for the first two of its three scheduled doses.
Faced with such a feat, Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez wrote on Twitter: “Hit by two pandemics (#COVID19 and #Blockade), our scientists at the Finlay and CIGB have jumped over all obstacles and given us two very effective vaccines: #SOBERANA02 and #Abdala.
The Phase III clinical research phase of Abdala began on March 22, 2021, in the eastern Cuban provinces of Santiago de Cuba, Guantánamo and Granma, with the participation of 48,290 volunteers.
Abdala is also part of intervention studies on people at higher risk, including health workers, in several Cuban provinces.
At the close of June 21, 2021, Cuba had 4,979,420 doses administered with its vaccine candidates.
Cuba’s Centre for State Control of Medicines, Equipment and Medical Devices noted that the Soberna 02 and Abdala vaccine candidates have an adequate safety profile, while the appearance of antibody titres was verified, which guarantees the elevation of the immune response.
Likewise, the facilities involved in the production process were inspected, with the intention of certifying good practices, in addition to evaluating and endorsing the quality of each batch, and the vaccinatories where the immunisation scheme is carried out were also validated.
In recent days, Cuban researchers have stated that they are in the process of designing clinical studies in pediatric populations using the Abdala vaccine.
With this, Cuba has its own vaccines and does not need to import them, nor does it need to avoid possible setbacks when buying them and transporting them to its territory, nor suffer rejections like those it receives every time it tries to acquire merchandise with 10 percent or more of components from the United States, a country that has been blockading it economically, commercially and financially for six decades and sanctions the ships that bring products to the island.
According to Cuban scientists and specialists, by the end of the year the entire Cuban population should be immunised against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, in a national vaccination strategy by population groups.
(The author is the Chief Correspondent India-South Asia of Latin American News Agency Prensa Latina. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online.)