Faced with rising COVID-19 cases and struggling with a stagnating economy, Cuba is placing high hopes on rolling out its own vaccines to stabilise a worsening national crisis.
The country has been hit with the double whammy of the crippling economic effects of the pandemic coupled with stifling sanctions by the then US Trump administration.
Cuba has been in part hoping for the new Biden administration to rapidly unravel the added restrictions imposed by his predecessor while at the same time relying on its world-renowned biochemicals industry and health sector to provide a pathway out of the malaise.
However, the development of vaccines at home seems to be moving at a faster pace than President Biden’s commitment to relax the US trade and travel restrictions on the island.
Keen to restart its tourism sector to alleviate the economic burden on the state and citizens, Cuba has suffered a setback with a resurgence in cases after opening its borders.
The country has to date recorded over 50,000 cases and more than 300 deaths attributed to COVID-19.
And this has happened as it despatches its own healthcare teams abroad to assist its Caribbean and Latin America neighbours as well countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East whose health systems are under severe strain compounded by the pandemic.
But while that 'medical internationalism' and 'doctor diplomacy' is a vital source of foreign exchange for Cuba, the country's economy is still reeling under pressure from the virus and other constraints.
The Cuban government is pinning its hopes on four potential vaccines in development domestically which it expects to roll out this year.
The Soberana 01 and Soberana 02 vaccines alongside the Mambisa and Abdala are reported to be in advanced trial stages.
The Sobera vaccines are a reference to the country’s sovereignty, while Mambisa is a tribute to the women who fought in the independence wars in the second half of the 19th century.
The Abdala vaccine - being developed with Iran - is said to be in homage to the first dramatic poem by the Cuban intellectual José Martí.
While no specific timeline has been stated, the Cuban government has said it is aiming to vaccinate its entire population this year with its own vaccines.
Plans are to manufacture 100 million doses of the Soberana 2 vaccine, which would be the first to be developed in Latin America.
Cuba’s biotechnology and immunology sector has been highly praised globally for already producing medicines to treat COVID-19 patients, some of which it has exported to India and other countries.