US embargo forces Cuba to manufacture its own inputs against covid-19

US embargo forces Cuba to manufacture its own inputs against covid-19
US embargo forces Cuba to manufacture its own inputs against covid-19

(Yamil Lage / AFP)

Respirators, swabs and reagents for PCR tests: Cuba had to manufacture its own material to fight the coronavirus, bypass the US embargo and “save millions of dollars” in imports, explained island scientists on Wednesday (31).

“Technological sovereignty is extremely important in the fight against covid,” said José Luis Fernández Yero, director of the Cuban center for immunological tests.

The US embargo, established in 1962, which aims to bring about a regime change in Cuba, has allowed the sending of medicines and medical supplies to the island since 1992, provided it is for the exclusive benefit of the population.In reality, banks and other intermediaries are reluctant to monitor these operations, even from countries other than the United States, for fear of American sanctions.

“Cuba has been working on the development of medical equipment for more than 25 years,” said Fernández. But, in the face of a new disease, new needs arose.

For the testing of PCR, Cuba also manufactured “the swabs that serve to collect the sample, which the institution did not do at all before the beginning of the covid, that the country had to import large quantities”.

Cuba also had to create the “solution used to transport the sample” and a “reagent” to determine whether it is positive or negative.

The objective was “to achieve technological sovereignty from the collection of the sample to the final interpretation of the results,” he said.

Cuban scientists have also designed four models of artificial respirators.Thanks to this effort, “our country is saving and many millions of dollars will still be saved” in imports, added Eduardo Martínez, president of the state pharmaceutical group BioCubaFarma.

The country, which has made health and education the cornerstones of its socialist system, has two vaccine candidates, Soberana 2 and Abdala, in the third and final phase of clinical trials, before being approved.

This Wednesday, the first of two doses of Soberana 2 was distributed to 44,000 volunteers in Havana.

“In the month of June, (it is expected) to be able to have the results of the vaccine’s effectiveness, which we hope will be high,” stated Martínez, because “a very high percentage of patients” vaccinated in phase 2 developed antibodies against the disease.

The authorities, who plan to start the vaccination campaign in June, intend to immunize the entire population later this year.

Cuba currently faces the third wave of the pandemic, but remains one of the least affected nations on the American continent, with 75,263 cases of contagion and 424 deaths in a population of 11.2 million.

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