Cuba’s Covid Vaccines Proceed even with US Sanctions

Hit by “renewed” US sanctions (The Guardian) under trump and a Covid pandemic, Cuba is enduring an economic crisis. Pharmacy shelves are empty, people stand in line for hours to buy chicken, and bread is scarce and hard to find. May 6th Cuba reported 1,060 cases totaling 112,714. Another seven deaths occurred bringing the total to 701.

Even as the island nation is under a political siege and suffering from Covid, Cuba is the smallest country in the world to successfully develop its own coronavirus vaccines. Of the 27 coronavirus vaccines in final phase 3 clinical trials around the world, two are of Cuban (NYT) origin.


Cuba’s Finlay Vaccine Institute developed a vaccine known as Soberana 2.

Soberana which means “Sovereign” in Spanish is a Conjugate vaccine. It is the second version of the Soberana vaccines. To make the vaccine, a weak antigen is combined with a stronger antigen as the carrier. The immune system has a stronger response to the weak antigen containing a part of the coronavirus spike protein fused to a standard tetanus vaccine to make it stable and aluminum hydroxide as an adjuvant to boost the immune system.

After testing Soberana 2 in animals, Finlay researchers started a Phase 1 trial in October 2020 followed up by a Phase 2 trial in December. On March 3, the Finlay Vaccine Institute registered a Phase 3 trial for Soberana 2. Its test pool will include 44,010 participants in Havana. Researchers  began dosing trial participants in Iran on April 26, 2021. Cuban authorities expect results from the final trial by the end of May.

In tandem and hoping to accomplish by May, Finlay’s scientists  reported they are testing a combination of Soberana 2 with a dose of another vaccine called Soberana Plus which will boost efficacy. Cuba is planning to make 100 million doses of Soberana 2 to vaccinate its entire population. The island country has hope the vaccine will also be a source of economic benefit to the island.


Besides Finlay’s Soberna, The Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology of Cuba has Abdala in Phase 3 testing.

The Center launched an initial trial at the end of November on a coronavirus vaccine named Abdala. The name is from a poem by the nineteenth-century poet José Marti.

The Abdala vaccine consists of a piece of the coronavirus spike protein called the receptor binding domain.  Differences between the Abdala and Soberana vaccines can be found in the sources of the RBD used. In Soberana 01 and 02, the RBD is produced by recombinant DNA technology in mammalian cells (CHO). The RBD of Abdala is produced in yeast cells.

On Feb. 1, the center held a press conference to announce the start of a Phase 2 trial for Abdala. The Phase 3 trial has started March 18. with the recruiting of ~ 48,000 participants. The desired Abdala vaccine efficacy is expected to be achieved in a series of three shots administered 14 days a part. Testing began this May to see what level of efficacy can be achieved.

One country in possession of only one spectrometer, Cuba is keeping pace with the United States and other countries in developing and bringing to market a Covid vaccine. And Cuba has been able to overcome the political obstructions.

Trump placing Cuba on the US list of state sponsors of terrorism in January 2021. Finding a bank willing to process payments to became a major problem. Cuba is planning on marketing the Covid vaccines. And in one case has transferred technology on a COVID-19 vaccine currently undergoing trial in that country. Chicago-born neurologist Dr. Mitchell Valdés-Sosa :

“The US is trying to starve Cuba into submission. Not only is it difficult to buy things directly from the US, it is also the sanctions the Trump administration put in place drying up many sources of revenue.”

The Guardian, “Cuba punches above its weight to develop its own Covid vaccines”

Obama had the right idea in loosening restrictions on Cuba. I sense the Republicans will make this a big deal if Biden does similar. Biden’s administration has said it is reviewing the terrorism relisting.