Cuba says its Soberana 02 vaccine has 62% efficacy

Photo by Mat Napo

Cuba has announced that two doses of its Soberana 02 vaccine have a 62% efficacy, a figure that exceeds World Health Organisation (WHO) requirements for a candidate vaccine to be recognised as a vaccine. Further results about the efficacy of a combination of two doses of Soberana 02 with one of Soberana Plus are expected to be announced soon, and are expected to be superior.

The level of efficacy, which was established by an Independent Committee of experts, means that the emergency use of the Soberana 02 vaccine is expected to be formally authorised after consideration by the Centre for State Control of Medicines,Medical Equipment and Devices (Cecmed), Cuba’s medical licensing authority.

Speaking to Cuban scientists gathered at the Finlay Vaccine Institute (IFV) on 19 June, President Díaz- Canel said that the outcome was a resounding achievement by Cuban scientists, delivered “in the midst of a complex situation due to COVID-19, the circulation of several mutations of the virus, and in the midst of an extremely complex financial situation for the country.”

Observing that, as a government, Cuba had not been able to provide all of the financing the project had needed, Díaz-Canel said that it would be seen as a world-class result, “good for more than eleven million Cubans and for millions of people in the world, especially the poorest, who do not have access to any of the other vaccines.”

Results like this, Cuba’s President was quoted as saying, “are totally uplifting” and “emancipatory results,” achieved by “a poor, brutally blocked country” that has experienced this last year “only aggressions and perverse actions, full of evil, full of hatred, full of brutality.”

In other statements, Dr. Vicente Vérez, the Director of the IFV, noted that the Soberana 02 vaccine was effective against the original COVID strain, as well as the combination of strains presently circulating in Havana. He noted that, “in a couple of weeks,” Cuba should know about the combined efficacy of the three doses.

The Committee undertaking the Independent Analysis consist of clinicians, epidemiologists, and statisticians from the Pedro Kourí Institute of Tropical Medicine and the Molecular Immunology Center, and from Cuba’s Ministry of Public Health.

The news comes as there are signs that the earlier decision by Cuba’s Ministry of Health to grant special permission to administer candidate vaccines in Havana is having a positive effect on the transmission rate there, alongside strict controls placed on movement.

On 14 June, a meeting of the high-level working group on the pandemic heard, however, that while the trend in Havana was now positive, this was not the case in other parts of the country, where infection rates are rising.

At the meeting, the Prime Minister, Manuel Marrero, said that the situation in Santiago de Cuba was concerning. In some municipalities, he said, there had been a high level of violation of the measures adopted to curb the pandemic, in addition to a loss of the sense of risk among the population. The meeting heard that only three provinces had seen a decrease in transmission: Havana, Granma, and Isla de la Juventud. The meeting stressed, according to state media reports, that it was essential that all the measures recommended “must be undertaken in combination, and that mobility must be restricted until the virus has a low transmission rate.”

Separately, Cuba has announced that, by the end of 15 June, it had administered 4.08mn doses of its candidate vaccines Soberana 02 and Abdala. Of these, 2.09mn people had received at least one dose, 1.3mn a second dose, and 0.7m a third.

At present, at risk Cubans and those in high-incidence locations are receiving vaccinations under an emergency health vaccination procedure authorised by Cuba’s Minister of Public Health. This is based on the evidence about the safety and immunogenicity observed in Phase I and II clinical trials.

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