Cuba Says Early Data Suggests Homegrown Vaccine Protecting Against Delta

By Reuters Staff

August 16, 2021

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba, grappling with a dire COVID-19 outbreak fueled by the Delta variant, said "only 21,000," or 0.8% of the 2.5 million people inoculated with its homegrown vaccines, had fallen ill with the disease so far.

Of those, 99 or 0.003% of those inoculated had died, in what state biopharmaceutical corporation BioCubaFarma said late on Thursday was an encouraging sign that the shots were working, including against Delta, in particular to prevent severe illness.

"This is really promising data," BioCubaFarma head Eduardo Martinez said on state-run television. The corporation is on track to produce the doses necessary to fully inoculate the whole population with its three-shot vaccines, Abdala and Soberana 2, by September, he added.

Skeptics of the Cuban vaccines pointed out the data still yielded a case-fatality rate of 0.47%. Cuba had previously said that rate in the first week of August was 0.93% for the whole country regardless of vaccination status.

Any reliable comparison is tricky, with recent reports from provincial state news outlets suggesting underreporting of both cases and deaths in official statistics amid Cuba's worst outbreak since the start of the pandemic.

The island state of 11 million inhabitants is racing to fully inoculate its population as it battles one of world's the highest COVID-19 caseloads, with more than 8,000 confirmed cases per day for the last two weeks.

Authorities started a mass vaccination campaign in Havana in May with Abdala and Soberana 2 which they say have proven to be more than 90% effective in late phase clinical trials, although the data has yet to be published in peer-reviewed journals.

Communist-run Cuba has developed an unusually large biotech sector for a country its size, partly in a bid for sovereignty given crippling U.S. sanctions.

It is the only Latin American country to have advanced with a COVID-19 vaccine to late phase trials, and Abdala and Soberana 2 have elicited interest from countries worldwide.

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