Cuba safely vaccinates children against COVID-19

February 23, 2022
Cuba COVID-19 vaccine
Cuba has one of the highest COVID-19 vaccinated populations in the world. Background photo: Monstera from Pexels

Despite the impacts of a 60-year-long economic emargo by the United States, Cuba was the first country in the world to begin the mass vaccination of children as young as two years old against COVID-19.

To date, the Caribbean nation has vaccinated 96.6% of its pediatric population with its locally developed Soberana 02 vaccine, with no serious side effects reported.

About 5.1 million doses of the Soberana 02 and Soberana Plus vaccines have been administered to about 1.8 million children as young as two as well as to adolescents.

According to Cuba’s Finlay Vaccine Institute (IFV), Cuba is the only country in the world to face the Omicron variant with virtually its entire child population vaccinated.

The Omicron variant arrived in the country in December. However, there was no pronounced spike in cases as seen in many other countries. In recent times, infections have fallen off by more than 80%.

Eduardo Martínez Díaz, president of Cuba’s pharmaceutical firm BioCubaFarma, said, "Elsewhere in the world, the virus is circulating more in the pediatric population, but that is not happening in Cuba."

Cuba’s program of mass vaccination of children and adolescents is on top of its successful mass vaccination of its adult population, making it one of the highest COVID-19 vaccinated populations in the world.

Cuba has fully vaccinated 87% of its total population. Nearly 94% have received at least one dose, placing it among the top three globally among countries of at least 1 million people. This is a much higher rate than that of the US, where about 65% of the population are fully vaccinated.

With a few exceptions, Cuba kept its borders largely closed until mid-November. By then, the country had vaccinated most of its population.

Cuba now has five COVID-19 vaccines in various stages of trial and use. Three of the vaccines — Soberana 01, Soberana 02 and Soberna Plus — were developed at IFV in Havana. The other two vaccines — Abdala and Mambisa — were developed by Cuba's Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology.

Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which use mRNA technology, and the AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson vaccines, which use viral vector technology, Cuba’s vaccines use protein subunits from the pathogen to generate protection against the virus.

More than a dozen nations are interested in securing Cuba’s locally developed vaccines, and it is currently exporting vaccines to Venezuela, Mexico, Nicaragua, Vietnam and Iran.

To date, more than 20 million doses of Cuba’s Abdala, Sovereign 02, and Sovereign Plus vaccines have been exported to Venezuela, and more than 6 million Abdala and Sovereign 02 vaccines have been supplied to Vietnam and Iran.

IFV has developed vaccines for almost all infectious diseases, such that 80% of all of Cuba's vaccines are produced locally. Past vaccination campaigns have largely eradicated measles, rubella, mumps, polio and typhoid, among other diseases.

Cuba has several advantages over many nations, including free universal healthcare, the world’s highest ratio of doctors to population, a robust medical research industry — including three laboratories equipped and staffed to run virus tests — and several positive health indicators.

Cuba’s infant mortality rate is lower than that of the US and average life expectancy is slightly higher.

Cuba is also renowned for its medical diplomacy, with thousands of specialist staff sent abroad to help countries respond to short-term crises, natural disasters and medical emergencies.

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