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Friday, August 06, 2021

Explained: What is Soberana 2, Cuba’s Covid-19 vaccine candidate?

If approved, Cuba will become the first Latin American country to manufacture and produce a vaccine against Covid-19.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: July 13, 2021 9:00:26 am
Soberana 2 Cuba covid vaccineIn total, the Soberana 2 is delivered through a three dose regimen. (Reuters)

Cuba has said its homegrown Covid-19 vaccine Soberana 2 (Sovereign 2), when delivered with a booster shot of Soberana Plus, is about 91 per cent effective against symptomatic Covid-19 cases as demonstrated in its late stage clinical trials.

Soon after the results were announced, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel thanked the island nation’s scientists for working on the vaccine. If approved, Cuba will become the first Latin American country to manufacture and produce a vaccine against Covid-19.

How is the Soberana 2 vaccine administered?

In total, the Soberana 2 is delivered through a three dose regimen. Two shots of Soberana 2 and one of Soberana Plus, when taken in a 0-28-56 day regimen, have an efficacy of 91.2 percent, the Cuban government’s Covid-19 task force announced.

What type of a vaccine is Soberana 2?

Apart from Soberana 2 (one among three in the Soberana series), developed by the Finlay Institute in partnership with the Centre for Molecular Immunology and the National Biopreparations Centre, there are four other vaccines that are being developed in the Latin American island nation that has a population of just 11 million people.

All five vaccines are protein vaccines, which is to say that these vaccines are made up of a protein derived from the virus, which then binds to human cells to trigger an immune response.

Helen Yaffe of the University of Glasgow noted in a blog post that Soberana 2 is unique among the Cuban vaccines because it is the only kind of “conjugate vaccine” that combines the virus’s receptor-binding domain with a deactivated form of tetanus in order to boost the immune response.

Does Cuba make other kinds of vaccines?

Cuba produces about 60-70 percent of the medicines that it consumes domestically and vaccinates against 13 other diseases with 11 vaccines, eight of which are produced in the country.

A report in The Economist noted that after the Communist revolution in 1959, while half of the island nation’s doctors fled abroad, Fidel Castro pumped money into healthcare with the hope that pharma too could become exportable like sugar.

Vicente Vérez Bencomo, director-general of the state-owned Finlay Institute of Vaccines told the journal Nature in an interview that president Díaz-Canel gave a call to scientists and researchers in May 2020 to develop suitable vaccine candidates. “ It was very important for us. We foresaw that when vaccines were ready [in other parts of the world], it would take a long time for them to reach countries like ours,” Bencome told the journal.

About the name of the vaccine series ‘Soberana’ Bencome said, “This (the vaccine) was taken with such pride in Cuba that we didn’t have any other choice but to call the vaccine Soberana. People really trust what we do. We always have three times as many people lined up to participate in clinical trials as we need.”

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