Cuba Seeks WHO Recognition of Its Vaccines Against Covid-19

Cuba seeks the approval of the World Health Organization (WHO) for its three vaccines against covid, which could mean an economic, scientific, and political boost for Havana at its most delicate moment in decades.

The recent authorization for emergency use in Mexico of the Abdala formula represents a step forward in this regard, but a WHO decision seems still distant, judging by the stage of the validation processes.

“The process is guided by science and not politics and is necessarily onerous, but the system works. Wherever assessments and inspections have not been carried out following international requirements and standards, the WHO carries out the entire spectrum of actions”, WHO sources indicated to Efe.

According to the latest update on the status of the evaluation process of vaccines against covid-19 of this multilateral organization, on December 23, the WHO is “awaiting information on the strategy and schedule for sending” documentation from Cuba.

This public document also indicates that the meeting prior to sending the information between Cuban producers and WHO representatives have not yet taken place, and that the information has not yet been accepted for review.

The WHO explained to Efe that the process “usually takes between two or three months to be completed,” depending on “the quality and availability of the data provided by the manufacturers, among other factors.”

However, it underlines that the review is an “open process with no end date”, that is, it does not have a specific duration nor does it have to end with an authorization for the vaccine candidate.

The final green light is granted “if, in light of the WHO standards” the data “demonstrate a reasonable probability” of “the quality, safety, and effectiveness of the vaccine” and that the benefits outweigh its “possible risks and uncertainties “.

The vaccination guidelines for Abdala, Soberana 02, and Soberana Plus are more than 90% effective, according to their manufacturers, but these data have not been verified by independent external bodies.

Currently, ten covid-19 vaccines around the world have successfully completed this validation process by the WHO (including Pzifer / BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Janssen, Sinovac, and Novavax).

Five more candidates are awaiting the final decision of the WHO, another held two meetings prior to sending the documentation, one more recently withdrew his candidacy and the remaining three applications are in the first stage of the process, including the Cuban one.

The president of the state group of the Cuban biopharmaceutical industry (BioCubaFarma), Eduardo Martínez Díaz, recently pointed this out on Twitter when he explained that they were “adapting the documentation that must be sent to the WHO.” “Progress is up to us,” he said.

His comments on the social network, where he emphasized that Cuban vaccines are “very effective” and that other countries could use them, followed several days of criticism in the official Cuban media of the WHO because the national formulas did not yet have authorization.

GOOD NEWS

Cuban vaccines have received good news in recent days. The Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risks (Cofepris) of Mexico – whose advice is followed by other countries in the region – authorized the Abdala vaccine for emergency use this Wednesday, after obtaining a “favorable technical opinion.”

In addition, this Tuesday Saint Vincent and the Grenadines also authorized the use of Abdala, and a day before Vietnam signed an agreement with Havana to receive another five million doses of that same vaccine once it authorized its emergency use for minors.

Cuban formulas were already being administered in countries allied to Havana such as Venezuela, Iran, and Nicaragua.

A decision by the WHO could have very positive consequences for Cuba in multiple areas.

The most immediate would be the recognition of the work of the scientific teams that have worked on these vaccines, the first developed in Latin America and the only ones in a developing economy that is not in the G20 (China, India, Russia).

The second would be economic, because, as the WHO explained to Efe, its approval is often a “prerequisite” for organizations such as UNICEF, the WHO regional office for the Americas (WHO / PAHO), or the Covax multilateral mechanism to acquire this vaccine. . Many countries could also opt for Cuban formulas, as they have the WHO seal.

All this would mean foreign exchange earnings for Cuba at a time when the country is going through a serious economic crisis due to the combination of the pandemic, the tightening of US sanctions, and internal mismanagement.

The difficult economic situation, with high inflation, long lines, and shortages, was at the base of the massive spontaneous protests last July, the largest in decades in the country.

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