COVID-19 Vaccines: from Cuba to the world
BY ANA LAURA ARBESÚ
Just one year after the detection of the first cases of COVID-19 in Cuba, its scientific community has tested two of the five vaccine candidates developed against this disease, which has affected millions of people around the world. The fact that the island is carrying forward a quintet of formulations against the SARS-CoV-2 virus is no accident. There have been three decades of work by a biopharmaceutical industry, with more than 200 registered products such as monoclonal antibodies, immunomodulators and vaccines, the latter of which are key players in the country’s child immunization program.
In Cuba, the name of the first molecules authorized for clinical trials is part of everyday life. They were baptized as “Soberanas”: SOBERANA 01, 02 and Plus.
The second, SOBERANA 02, has been tested in areas with the highest incidence, eight municipalities of Havana with 44,010 subjects, to demonstrate its efficacy. On the last day of March, its creators announced the closing of this first vaccination period, with satisfactory results in terms of adverse reactions.
In addition to these, children and adolescents will be included in a study initiated in April. Children will also be protected, said the leader of this research, Vicente Bencomo, director of the Finlay Vaccine Institute (IFV), talking to CubaPLUS Magazine.
Cuba’s pediatric population will have the best formulas for immunization against COVID-19, IFV research director Dagmar García added.
Moving forward in the sector of children with such innovative programs requires greater rigor. For this reason, the products must first be evaluated in adult populations in order to then evaluate infants, she stressed. The study covers the age range of five to 18. First in minors from 12 to 18; and once safety has been demonstrated in these age groups, it is widened to those aged five to 12. SOBERANA 01 could be the proposal to achieve immunization in this population group.
The Plus formulation, based on the SOBERANA 01A variant, is the one selected for those who have already overcome the disease and others who were asymptomatic, whose antibody levels are low.
The second molecule to advance to the last stage of testing in humans is Abdala, created by the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB), with tests on 48,000 volunteers in the eastern provinces of Santiago de Cuba, Granma and Guantánamo, where the disease has a high incidence.
Mambisa is CIGB’s second proposal, with a nasal administration route. The formulation is aimed at convalescents to strengthen immunization, since 50% of SARS-CoV-2 positive cases are asymptomatic, so these groups of people develop little immune response. Dr. Miladys Limonta, director of the COVID-19 vaccine project at CIGB, told this magazine that this vaccine does not require injection and is very safe and user-friendly.
After detailing the advantages of the formulations of the Cuban anti-COVID-19 projects based on preexisting platforms, she added that the formulas based on this technology can use multiple doses, unlike other proposals developed in the world, created with techniques in which there were no registered vaccines and about whose safety there are many unknowns. If both projects are confirmed to be effective, the Cuban population will be immunized against SARSCoV- 2 in 2021. The vaccination rollout will move forward in stages.
More certainty is also achieved using other populations of the world, in this case Iran and Venezuela, and other countries such as China are working together with Cuba in the development of another candidate to deal with strains and variants of the virus circulating with greater transmissibility