Cuba begins distributing homegrown vaccine Abdala

vaccine rollouts
Rollouts in Havana. Photo: Twitter/@dpshabana

Cuba has officially become the first Latin American to develop and distribute its own coronavirus vaccine. The rollout of Abdala began on Wednesday, one of two homegrown immunizers at advanced stages of development (the other is Soberana 02).

In the first wave of vaccination, about 400,000 at-risk people in Havana will be inoculated. A second stage is scheduled to begin late in June and will use the Soberana 02 vaccine. 

Since Cuba reopened its borders for tourists late last year, coronavirus cases and deaths have increased. Total confirmed deaths jumped from 146 on the first day of the year to 768 on May 12. Meanwhile, infections jumped from just over 12,000 to 119,400 over the same span. 

Authorities say that tourists — one of the island’s main sources of revenue — will be able to receive a homegrown Cuban vaccine by the end of the year. Cuba hopes to produce up to 100 million doses of Soberana 02 and ship surplus to countries such as Venezuela, Vietnam, and Iran. The Abdala vaccine has also begun testing in Venezuela.

São Paulo’s municipal Foreign Affairs Secretary Marta Suplicy said Brazil’s biggest city is negotiating the purchase of Soberana 02, expected to be approved for general use in Havana by June. Ms. Suplicy, a former mayor, said the immunizers made on the island are “excellent.”