(CMR) Cuban health officials will apply for the World Health Organization's approval for one of the country's COVID-19 vaccines, as the country secured funding to produce 200 million vaccine doses for low-income countries.
Preliminary studies show that Cuba's COVID vaccines hold up well against omicron, said Ileana Morales Suárez, director of science and technology innovation at Cuba's Ministry of Public Health.
Representatives of the Cuban government said Tuesday that the Caribbean island obtained funding from the Central American Bank for Economic Integration to produce the vaccines. According to Dr. Vicente Vérez Bencomo, director-general of the Finlay Institute of Vaccines, “They could produce 120 million doses in one year alone.”
Cuba's health regulator (CECMED) approved the use of three of the country's vaccines, which have been exported to four countries, but none has yet been approved by WHO.
Rolando Pérez Rodríguez, director of science and innovation at Cuba's state-run pharmaceutical conglomerate, BioCubaFarma, said they expect this to change soon.
“We have formally requested the prequalification of one vaccine: Abdala. We are in the final review of the documents, and it should be sent in the following days to the WHO,” Rodriguez said
The application for WHO approval of a second Cuban vaccine, Soberana 2, is expected to be sent in the coming weeks and is also expected to gain authorization for use this year, said Dagmar García Rivera at the Finlay Institute of Vaccines in Havana.
The island nation has fully vaccinated 86% of its population and administered 2.97 doses for every person, more than anywhere else in the world.
Cuba exports its vaccines to Iran, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Vietnam and is in discussion with more than 15 countries, most of which are low-income nations, said Rodríguez.
It also recently donated vaccines to Syria and St Vincent and the Grenadines and is sharing knowledge and technical knowledge with other countries to help them manufacture the vaccines.
Rodríguez said, “We are open to any proposal that implies a greater impact of our vaccines on the world . . . [Lack of WHO approval] has not been an obstacle for countries interested in the Cuban vaccines.” He added that the vaccines had been sold at a “price of solidarity” comparable to the Covax scheme, distributing vaccines to low and middle-income countries.
However, WHO approval is a requisite for Covax vaccines, which has prevented Cuban shots from being administered through the WHO co-led mechanism.
“Perhaps when the authorization is there, that will facilitate or accelerate distribution,” said Rodríguez.