Cuba rolls out mass vaccines while awaiting study results

Hundreds of thousands of Cubans who have begun receiving new, locally produced vaccines against COVID-19 in the past few days the government has ramped up an inoculation campaign.

This mass vaccination campaign is happening before releasing formal Phase III data on the vaccines’ effectiveness and safety.

The island’s health minister, José Angel Portal Miranda, announced on May 7 that officials are still processing information from the unusually large Phase III trials of the two vaccine candidates, which covered 400,000 people overall.

But he said that beginning mass vaccines now “has more benefits than risks. … The number of sick and deceased is going to decrease.”

Officials also have not given data on results from trials in other countries, such as Iran, that were reportedly testing the Cuban candidates.

The vaccines are a point of pride for a small and relatively poor nation of 11 million people that has prioritized its medical sector and has long boasted of exporting its own pharmaceuticals across the globe. While other Latin American nations are producing foreign vaccines under license, only Cuba so far has developed its own.

Officials say inoculations are taking place as well in the provinces, with plans to cover 70% of the adult population by the end of August.

Cuba is experiencing an outbreak of infections that began last December after months in which some localities went weeks without cases. Since the pandemic began in March 2020, Cuba has reported 121,838 cases and 785 deaths. But 31,346 of those cases came last month.