Cuba Wins Covid War

Despite the added challenges created by a six decade-long US blockade, Cuba’s public biotech sector has developed two highly effective vaccines and its universal healthcare system has inoculated four-fifths of its population.

Additionally, the island has begun exporting its homegrown doses and is on the verge of sharing its recipes with impoverished nations abandoned by Big Pharma and wealthy countries.

“Cuba is now one of the few lower-income countries to have not only vaccinated a majority of its population,” Jacobin’s Branko Marcetic wrote Tuesday, “but the only one to have done so with a vaccine it developed on its own.”

In truth Cuba has fully vaccinated 80% of its population against Covid-19, putting it in the top 10 globally, and well ahead of several wealthy nations. Nearly 90% of Cubans have received at least one dose, again outpacing most of the world—even as the Biden administration has intensified Washington’s embargo on the island, stifling its economy and depriving its residents of food and medical supplies, including syringes.

“Cuba has been able to do the unthinkable, developing its own vaccine and outdoing much of the developed world in overcoming the pandemic, despite its size and level of wealth, and despite a policy of concerted economic strangulation from a hostile government off its shores.”

Since a late-August peak of nearly 10,000 cases and almost 100 deaths per day, Cuba’s successful vaccination effort has coincided with a major decline in Corona virus infections and mortality. While Covid-19 has claimed the lives of 8,295 Cubans since the pandemic began, the country recorded zero deaths from the disease on Tuesday.

Moreover, “the country reopened its borders on November 15 to tourism, roughly a tenth of its economy, and has reopened schools. This makes Cuba an outlier among low-income countries, which have vaccinated only 2.8% of their combined populations.”

The glaring gap in vaccination rates between rich and poor countries is the result of vaccine hoarding by wealthy governments—which have gobbled up most of the world’s doses, occasionally wasting excess supplies even as they tout their insufficient donations—and pharmaceutical corporations’ refusal to share vaccine formulas, even though the underlying technology is publicly funded.

While health justice advocates continue to push for a temporary suspension of deadly intellectual property barriers at the World Trade Organisation—a widely supported move that would enable qualified manufacturers to produce generic Covid-19 vaccines, treatments, and tests—Big Pharma has lobbied to maintain its extremely profitable monopoly control over lifesaving knowledge, and the industry continues to be backed by the United Kingdom, Germany, and a few other opponents of the patent waiver.

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Vol 54, No. 26, Dec 26, 2021 - Jan 1, 2022