Where there is a need for greater co-operation amongst peoples of the world, the callous nature of American sanctions impedes this. Cuba, in collaboration with Iran (two countries that are under unilateral U.S sanctions), is producing its vaccines but the sanctions imposed by America are standing in the way of the mass production of such. All regard for public health considerations loses weight in face of American sanctions.
Cuba is currently developing five experimental vaccines, including Soberana 02 and Abdala. The vaccines are at different stages of trials with Cuba’s Public Health Ministry planning on spreading its emergency vaccination plan against COVID-19 throughout all parts of Havana. The Ministry is currently administering the Abdala vaccine. Soberana 02 reached the final stage trials in March 2021. Soberana 02 translates to Sovereign 02 while the Abdala vaccine is named after a patriotic poem by Jose Marti, a Cuban revolutionary hero. And this engenders the conscious national effort envisioned by Cubans in finding homegrown solutions and sharing such with the rest of the world.
Cuba’s Finlay Institute is working with Iran’s Pasteur Institute to develop the vaccines. The two countries are now focusing on the mass production of vaccines but the U.S embargo against both is acting as a stumbling block to this effect. This is severely complicating the procurement of the necessary materials needed to manufacture the vaccines. Iran and Cuba reached an agreement early in January to cooperate in the clinical evidence of the vaccines. And officials from both countries are adamant that their cooperation is a bold statement to the U.S – international solidarity is needed in times of international public health crises despite ideological divergences.
Cuba is filled with untamed ambition as it aims to vaccinate its whole population before the end of the year. Priority for immunization is granted to people above 60, followed by people between 40 and 59, then those between 19 to 39. The Finlay Institute asserts that it can produce 100 million doses of the Soberana 02 vaccine this year.
Last month, Cuba's Biotechnological and Pharmaceutical Industries Business Group (BioCubaFarma) proclaimed that U.S. inhuman sanctions against Cuba and Iran have derailed cooperation with Iran’s Pasteur Institute for the development and production of Soberana 02. At that time, Cuba's Foreign Affairs Minister Bruno Rodriguez criticized U.S actions fashioned to slow the production of these vaccines.
Referring to the materials needed to produce the Soberana 02 vaccine, BioCubaFarma said, “The usual suppliers refused to sell to us, fearing the impact that the brutal embargo could cause to their companies.” In this day and age, Western imperialism still considers it an impossibility that Cuba can create its vaccine yet the Caribbean nation has an illustrious history of vaccine production – having once produced vaccine shots against Hepatitis B and Meningitis B. Cuba had managed to control vaccine infections last year but it saw a surge in cases this year, vindicating it to come up with its solution in the form of a domestic COVID-19 vaccine.
Access to such materials needed to facilitate the vaccination process – from production materials to syringes and needles – is hard for Cuba due to the U.S embargo. The Caribbean country has no option but to rely on its sheer strengths and capabilities it can muster, as well as other outside international help.
U.S sanctions against Cuba, in force since the late 1950s, outrightly prohibit U.S companies and individuals from doing business with Cuba. In respect of medical products, international companies are prohibited to sell to Cuba any medical product containing more than 20% of American components. During the megalomaniac reign of Donald Trump as U.S president, 90 new economic restrictions were passed against the already unstable economy. The embargo is making it extremely cumbersome for Cuba to procure the raw materials needed to produce the vaccines and for Cuba to make international payments to its international suppliers.
Recently, Argentinian civil organizations donated 380,000 syringes and 359,000 needles to Cuba as part of measures to mitigate the medical shortages. Cuba offered to send vaccines to Argentina by August in exchange. Some NGOs from the U.S, Italy, Spain, and Chile promised to send 20 million syringes to Cuba. Cuba’s Foreign Affairs Minister Bruno Rodriguez remarked that this outpour of international solidarity is “prevailing over the current sanctions” imposed by the U.S.
The American government should respect the will of the people and remove its sanctions against both Cuba and Iran so that the public health crisis facing the planet can be fought with international solidarity. The double standards of the American government should always be called out against.