By Frank Martin
The Caribbean that is seeking the definitive tourism industry reopening after the long Covid-19 pandemic is now fighting for vaccines.
Among the products of this type that are already in use or will soon be used worldwide only a few are developed in the region…and just in Cuba.
The island, the largest in the region, has two of its vaccine projects in the third and final phase of research and is about to do tests on volunteers.
And what is known about Cuban vaccines? Enough to predict success.
The two most advanced have been named Soberana 02 €(Sovereign) and Abdala.
According to scientifics in Havana these products have already demonstrated “safety and immunogenicity” against the virus.
Soberana 02 and Abdala are not the only vaccine candidates in Cuba.
Cuban scientists are developing two others called Soberana 01 (IFV) and Mambisa (CIGB), the latter the only one designed to nasal use.
In the Caribbean region 13 countries have enrolled in the COVAX program of the World Health Organization.
COVAX was created to ensure access to COVID-19 vaccines for low- and middle-income countries.
One of them is Jamaica, which had to stop an aggressive reopening to tourism despite not receiving a single shipment of vaccines. This led to the closure of public beaches and rivers until March 22.
Kingston however already expects 50,000 vaccines from India this week and 14,400 vaccines from the manufacturer AstraZeneca next week through the COVAX program.
Jamaica also plans to receive 1.8 million doses of vaccines by April through the African Medical Supply Platform, a non-profit initiative of the African Union.
Other islands in the area have joined a program called “Vaccine Friendship” from India and through that route also received doses of AstraZeneca whose protocol requires two injections per person.
Dominica already received 70,000 doses last month and began its vaccination campaign.
Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit has already shared some of the doses with other nations, including Grenada and St. Kitts and Nevis.
Skerrit disclosed that Dominica will also receive doses from China and the COVAX program.
In recent days more vaccines are arriving in the Caribbean. Barbados has already received 100,000 doses from India and immediately donated 2,000 doses to Trinidad and Tobago.
While waiting for the best solution against the pandemic that really is the vaccine, the Caribbean islands have established various methods to combat the spread and thus save their tourism industries crucial for their economies.
And after vaccination? Scientists around the world are cautious about when the time will come when Covid-19 disappears. That could happen towards the end of 2021 or later.
There are a few reasons for pessimism. The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Producers (IFPMA) has said that COVID-19 vaccine production could reach 10 billion doses by 2021.
Currently, however, the demand is more than double the production capacity.
The ability to manufacture your own vaccine is a durable solution for Caribbean islands with relatively low population numbers.
Once developed Cuban vaccines will be an advantage for that island and for the nations with fewer resources than Havana helps.
Although a broader solution is for the so-called rich countries to share theirs.