Cuba, Failing to Sell Bogus Coronavirus ‘Cure,’ Shops Vaccine Candidate to Suriname

Vicente Verez, Director General of the Finlay Vaccine Institute, shows a vial of the Soberana 2 vaccine at the Molecular Engineering Center in Havana on February 25, 2021. (Photo by YAMIL LAGE / AFP) (Photo by YAMIL LAGE/AFP via Getty Images)
YAMIL LAGE/AFP via Getty Images

The Communist Party of Cuba is shopping around its four Chinese coronavirus vaccine candidates to impoverished neighbors, potentially selling its most developed one, “Soberana 02,” to Suriname, Diario de Cuba reported on Tuesday.

Cuba boasts one of the world’s worst healthcare systems but invests heavily in foreign propaganda boasting of its allegedly superior medical schools and research institutions. It is the only Latin American country formally working on a vaccine against Chinese coronavirus. Soberana (“sovereign”) 02 entered late-stage clinical trials this week.

Prior to its promotion of the vaccine candidates, the Cuban government attempted to attract the world’s attention claiming that interferons, a form of antiviral, could be used to fight coronavirus infections. Cuba remains the only nation to promote the use of interferons in this manner; doctors abroad condemned Havana for promoting a dangerous and possibly lethal unproven treatment.

“When the Government of Cuba assures that the Interferon developed in Cuba cures the coronavirus, it is committing a serious crime against world public health, since this drug not only lacks any scientific proof, but also where it has been tested has already given null results of encouragement,” a group of doctors wrote in an article shared with the NGO Cuban Prisoners Defenders.

Diario de Cuba cited the Castro regime’s ambassador to Paramaribo, Suriname, as the source for the promise on behalf of the regime to grant Suriname access to its vaccine candidates. The ambassador, Igor Azcuy, met with the head of the nation’s parliament, Gregory Rusland, this week. According to a readout of that meeting published by Cuba’s Ministry of External Relations (Minrex), the two discussed “the situation of Cuba before the pandemic and the manufacture on the island of four vaccine projects.”

The statement did not elaborate further on what, exactly, the two discussed regarding the vaccines, and continued noting that the two also discussed Cuba’s hostile relationship with the United States and its “eventual improvement … under the new government of the U.S.”

President Joe Biden served as vice president during the tenure of President Barack Obama, who granted the Castro regime unprecedented concessions, like the legalization of tourist cruises to the island, that generated millions in revenue for the regime. President Donald Trump largely revoked those concessions, leaving the Communist Party with minimal resources to repress its people.

Diario de Cuba reported discussions with Suriname may result in the country receiving doses of one of the four vaccine candidates by the second half of 2021, citing Prensa Latina, a Cuban regime outlet. The newspaper also noted Cuban officials have hinted to Cuba’s desire to sell its vaccine candidates to “friendly countries,” claiming it will be able to manufacture enough doses for the entire island without having to worry about selling abroad.

Granma, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of Cuba, announced Phase III clinical trials for Soberana 02 to begin this week. Another vaccine candidate, “Abdala,” has reportedly already begun “industrial-scale production,” despite not finishing clinical trials. Cuban doctors will inject 44,000 people with Soberana 02 as part of its Phase III, and over 300,000 doses of the vaccine are ready.

Cuba’s candidate will compete with an array of international contenders, the most successful of which so far appears to be the coronavirus vaccine developed by the American company Pfizer, which boasts 95-percent effectiveness. The Communist Party of China has approved two vaccines, by firms Sinovac and Sinopharm, respectively, that are significantly less effective. China is planning to import at least 100 million doses of the Pfizer product through its European partner, BioNTech.

Cuban officials have claimed that, unlike most currently available vaccines, the Cuban products show significant success rates against new variants of the original Chinese coronavirus found in South Africa and Brazil.

“Cuba will be one of the first nations to immunize its entire population,” Eduardo Martinez, president of the government-run BioCubaFarma, said in early February.

Cuban officials have not revealed any specific plans for distributing its own vaccine candidates – or any other vaccines – to its people. Cuba has a poor record with routine vaccinations, as its healthcare system has been on the brink of collapse for decades. In a notable recent incident, Cuban doctors killed a one-year-old, Paloma Dominguez Caballero, with a routine Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine. After demanding an explanation for her death for weeks, Dominguez’s parents were forced to flee the country due to government intimidation. They never received an explanation for their daughter’s death, though some suggested either the vaccine dose was faulty or it was poorly refrigerated.

Cuban officials have hinted, without a plan for vaccinating citizens, wealthy tourists may be eligible to receive approved coronavirus vaccine candidates.

Cuba documented more Chinese coronavirus cases in February than any other month prior, according to Granma. Doctors confirmed 22,998 cases of infection that month, compared to 15,536 in January. At the beginning of the pandemic, the Communist Party initially attempted to profit by advertising itself as open to tourism, prompting nationwide protests. Havana reversed course after documenting its first cases, all Italian tourists, in March 2020.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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