HAVANA – The chairman of a coalition of NGOs from 13 European countries said on Friday that the alliance may provide financial support for Cuba’s efforts to develop a coronavirus vaccine.
Dr. Franco Cavalli, a Swiss oncologist, told a press conference that the purpose of his visit to Havana this week was to determine whether mediCuba-Europa should contribute some 300,000 euros ($350,000) for the purchase of scientific equipment needed by Cuba’s Finlay Institute of Vaccines.
Finlay is finding it difficult to obtain cytofluorometers, used to separate cells or chromosomes via fluorescent markers, as a result of the economic embargo the United States has maintained against Cuba since 1962.
The Cuban government says that Finlay is working on at least four potential vaccines, the most promising of which, dubbed Sovereign 01, is now in Phase 2 clinical trials.
More than 700 volunteers are taking part in the Sovereign 01 trials and the preliminary results are “encouraging,” according to Finlay.
The 300,000 euros mediCuba donated earlier to help Cuba’s healthcare system deal with the pandemic went toward a project to produce ventilators on the island, Cavalli said, describing himself as “very optimistic” about prospects for a Cuban vaccine.
He said that Cuba’s vaccine candidates could prove to be especially suitable for nations lacking the logistical capability to support medications, such as the one being tested by US drug-maker Pfizer, which must be maintained at very low temperatures.
Most of the vaccines under development in rich countries are “much more fragile” than the types of formulas Cuba is pursuing, Cavalli said, adding that Pan American Health Organization experts have confirmed the veracity of the trial findings from Finlay.
“Many European media outlets and governments mistrust the Cuban data because they believe they are so good that they can’t be real,” he said.
Cuba, whose approach to the pandemic has emphasized detecting infections as quickly as possible and isolating people suspected of having the virus, has had 7,541 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 131 deaths since March.
The government has rolled back pandemic restrictions across the island with the exception of greater Havana, though Cuba’s “new normal” includes continuing precautions and preventive measures.