Feature: Cuba inoculates medical workers against COVID-19 as homegrown vaccines enter final stage of trial

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by Yosley Carrero

HAVANA, March 24 (Xinhua) — Gisele Moreno, a dentist living in Havana’s Vedado district, is among the participants in an intervention study aimed at testing the efficacy of homegrown COVID-19 vaccine candidates.

As Cuba on Wednesday reported 736 confirmed cases and four more related deaths, she received the first dose of the locally made Soberana 02 vaccine, which has entered phase 3 clinical trials earlier in March.

“These jabs will protect us from contracting the virus,” she said. “We have been working hard for more than a year. I trust in our vaccine candidates.”

With the study going on, three Cuban vaccine candidates will be administered to some 150,000 frontline workers, including scientists and medical personnel, with two weeks intervals in between.

The study involves staff from 82 polyclinics and hospitals in Havana, the epicenter of the epidemic on the island, which has reported more than 400 COVID-19 cases for six days in a row.

At 140 vaccination centers set up citywide, frontline workers are being provided with disinfectant solutions, as physical distancing guidelines are in place to minimize the risk of contagion.

Osiris Barberia, deputy director at Martires del Corynthia polyclinic, supervises strict fulfillment of protocols as doctors and nurses are vaccinated at the health center she works for.

She told Xinhua that this study would increase vaccination coverage in Havana until homegrown vaccines receive final approval from Cuba’s Center for State Control of Medicines, Equipment and Medical Devices.

“By receiving doses of these vaccines, we are also protecting our families, for we are highly exposed to the virus,” she said.

On Jan. 29, the Cuban Ministry of Public Health confirmed a doctor from Havana as the country’s first medical worker to die from the pandemic.

Ileana Morales, director of science and technological innovation at the ministry, said that currently 70, 000 health workers are planned to receive shots of the homegrown experimental vaccines during the first phase of the COVID-19 intervention study.

“Nationwide, some 490, 000 essential workers from the biopharmaceutical and health fields will be vaccinated,” she said during a televised address.

At present, another 90,000 people are participating in phase 3 clinical trials for locally produced COVID-19 vaccine candidates. Cuba, home to 11 million people, expects to vaccinate more than half of its population by August. Enditem

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