HAVANA – Cuba has begun massively administering the most advanced of its coronavirus vaccine candidates, Soberana 02, in Havana after in early March it launched the last phase – Phase 3 – of clinical trials during which health authorities will determine its efficacy at preventing serious cases of COVID-19.
The study began this week and will involve 150,000 people – almost half of them health personnel – developing in parallel to the final phase of another study for Soberana 02 in which 44,010 volunteers are participating, also in the Cuban capital.
Expectations are that quite soon a similar study will be undertaken in the eastern part of the island using the Abdala vaccine candidate, which also just began Phase 3 of its clinical trials.
EFE on Wednesday was given access to one of the health centers involved in the study, a part of Cuba’s strategy to carry out different studies simultaneously to evaluate the efficacy of each vaccine candidate.
In the Martires del Corynthia teaching hospital, Soberana 02 will be administered to 1,800 volunteers in the clinical trial and another 560 health care workers, hospital director Aurolis Otaño told EFE.
The results of the study will help Cuban health authorities develop a vaccine roadmap and on Tuesday it was announced that over the next three months several “big studies,” most of them focusing in Havana and using Soberana 02 and Abdala, will be undertaken.
Cuba’s national director for Science and Innovation Technology with the Public Health Ministry, Ileana Morales, told state-run television that by May 1.7 million people over age 19 in Havana will have received the experimental vaccine.
Havana has approximately 2.2 million residents.
In this way, Cuban authorities intend to analyze “the efficacy, safety and impact on infections and sickness,” she said, adding that by June the emergency use of one of the pair will be approved and a countrywide vaccination campaign can begin.
Despite the high percentage of the public involved in these studies, Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel on Tuesday said that “it’s not a vaccination campaign.”
“We will be in Phase 3 clinical trials and in the intervention study, with vaccine candidates, not vaccines. It’s not a vaccination campaign. The results produced, which we hope will be of the most positive kind, will then lead us to a massive vaccination campaign over the coming months,” the president said at a government meeting.
Cuba, which to date has registered 68,986 confirmed coronavirus cases and 405 COVID-19 deaths, since January has been experiencing a third wave of infections with 10 of the country’s 15 provinces and the special Isle of Youth district in an “epidemic” phase with a nationwide daily average of 700-900 new cases.
Besides these two vaccine candidates, Cuban scientific institutions are researching three other candidates that are in intermediate stages of analysis.