RAYMOND, Maine — As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread and impact daily life, Cuba’s biopharmaceutical industry has produced a new vaccine, Soberana-02, to combat the virus. The vaccine’s results promise 92% effectiveness in its clinical trials. After more testing, Cuba promises to share their new vaccine abroad and help their international partners increase their vaccination rates.
Cuba’s Biopharmaceutical Industry
Cuba’s biopharmaceutical industry is another product of the revolutionary government. The medical industry was one of the top priorities in the immediate post-1959 years. Cuba’s biopharmaceutical industry grew after organizing the universalist healthcare system, setting up clinics and graduating fresh batches of doctors and nurses.
In the 1980s, Cuba’s government decided to make a $1 billion investment in developing its pharmaceuticals over five years. As a result, it has blossomed into a reliable market for the Cuban economy. Since then, Cuba’s government has continued to fund the biopharmaceutical industry. It has reaped the rewards of economic bounty and a strong reputation for its medical research.
Cuba’s biopharmaceutical industry has earned worldwide recognition for its contributions to lung cancer treatments, the first commercially available vaccine against Meningitis-B and now two out of five planned COVID-19 vaccines. The biopharmaceutical industry’s research shows that the country has a 78% COVID-19 vaccination rate, more than 20 percentage points higher than the United States’ vaccination rate.
Cuba’s primary biopharmaceutical industry holding company employs 21,000 individuals. In an island nation with an unemployment rate below 4%, the industry is only growing. With the COVID-19 pandemic still raging, Cuba’s biopharmaceutical industry may expand even further as its vaccine work continues.
Cuba’s New Vaccine
Cuba’s new vaccine, Sobarena-02, has had a 92.4% effectiveness rate in its clinical trials so far. The vaccine works similarly to a flu vaccine. The more popular COVID-19 vaccines, such as Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson and Johnson, are all mRNA sequencing vaccines, which have been in research and testing stages for several decades. However, the protein vaccine Soberana-02 is most commonly associated with the standard flu vaccine.
Production of protein vaccines has occurred for several decades. They are the vaccines used for the common flu. This makes it a more straightforward process to synthesize a vaccine for production. The protein vaccine takes a protein from the virus, uses a neutralizing binding agent, and binds to the proteins in one’s cells, effectively building immunity in the cell’s building blocks. The body is then familiar with the virus and neutralizes its impact if introduced from the outside.
The new vaccine is easier to manufacture, requiring less time and fewer materials. Soberana-02 will be easier to transport because it does not require sub-zero temperatures for transportation but can easily be kept in a fridge. As a vaccine, Soberana-02 has the potential to build community immunity faster than its competitors.
The Implications of the Vaccine
The COVID-19 pandemic hit Cuba’s economy badly, as it did many countries’ when borders closed for the sake of safety. In 2019, Cuba earned $2.97 billion from tourism. With closed borders and tight travel restrictions, Cuba has experienced severe economic struggles. Despite the economic downturn seen in tourism and other economic sectors, other industries have been able to pick up some of the economic slack. Cuba’s biopharmaceutical industry managed to bring in money from its research and production in the pandemic. Unfortunately, not enough to make up for the struggles of other industries.
The new vaccine shows promise to lead the country toward reopening for several reasons. In the past, protein vaccines were trusted and used for giving children the flu vaccine. Soberana-02 will allow Cuba to re-open schools safely and open more businesses.
Helping Other Countries
Neighboring nations and allies of Cuba have committed to paying for and receiving shipments of Soberana-02. Vietnam will receive 5 million doses and Venezuela, a long-time partner of Cuba’s in many trade circles and a political ally, has agreed to purchase $12 million worth of vaccine shipments. In both nations, vaccination rates are less than 50% and with the promise of this new vaccine, Cuba will profit.
It is possible that by this time next year, Cuba’s tourism industry will be back and generating income at similar levels. The money from the deals struck to send vaccines abroad will slightly boost the Cuban economy. With the promise of re-opening, Cuba’s economy will likely rebound within a year. The strength of Cuba’s biopharmaceutical industry has maintained its steady economic path. The development of Soberana-02 and subsequent vaccines will generate more trust in the biopharmaceutical industry.
– Clara Mulvihill