Havana, Cuba There is a health clinic in every corner of Havana, each with family doctors and nurses.

In the past few weeks, these health workers have been visiting their patients in the Cuban capital, from solar -The whole family lives in a Warren-style building with single rooms-A smart apartment in a crumbling Art Deco building, where memories of wealth are still displayed in the large windows overlooking the Florida Strait.

They have been telling residents that the coronavirus vaccine has arrived, and they have arranged an appointment for the injection. This scene has already been staged throughout the city, and-as long as there are enough syringes for injection-it will soon be staged across the country.

In the story of this pandemic, Cuba is opening a new chapter with suspense. In 2020, the virus will be controlled abroad to a large extent. The number of infected patients is now rising rapidly. There were 2,698 new cases every day on Saturday, a record high, and the 7-day average is now more than 2,000. Cuba is facing the biggest surge in the Caribbean.

However, last week the country announced that Abdullah, One of the five vaccines developed by Cuba In my own laboratory-this is an impressive achievement for a country with 11 million people and extremely resource-strained resources- Effective rate 92.28%In comparison, Pfizer BioNTech is 95%, Moderna is 95%, and AstraZeneca is 76%.

People wait after being vaccinated against the coronavirus under posters of the late Cuban President Fidel Castro, former President Raul Castro and current President Miguel Diaz-Canel [Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters]

Earlier this month, it claimed Another vaccine, Soberana-02, has 62% efficacy after two doses. On Thursday, its scientists said that boosters can increase it to 85% to 95% (Abdala also has three shots).

The warning immediately following the number follows, and the number may change in the face of new variants. Domestically, these vaccines have been tested in people who have not been affected by any severe COVID-19 wave so far, and have not yet received international review.

“I have no reason to believe that there is fraud or manipulation,” said Amílcar Pérez Riverol, a postdoctoral fellow in molecular biology at the State University of São Paulo in Brazil and a veteran of the Cuban laboratory. “This is biotechnology. In the end, ordinary vaccination will reveal their effectiveness. But like every member of the scientific community, I want to see the data.”

In Havana, people are becoming more and more alarmed by the rising infection rate, and the curative effect has caused widespread cheers. “After such a difficult year of queuing and food shortages, it’s great to have something to celebrate,” said a woman who left a local doctor’s clinic last week.

The news even rekindled the applause to Cuban health workers at 9pm. The Cubans — who admired their medical services — lasted for several months of daily applause, until finally disappeared under the pressure of daily life. There is currently a shortage of food and medicine, as well as rapidly rising inflation. Then there are more and more infected people.

“Sovereign” vaccine

In the early days of the pandemic, the Cuban government saw an opportunity to showcase its impressive range of medical services, the “advantages” of authoritarian rule, and the biotechnology industry that Fidel Castro had always believed the country could excel at.

Current in Cuba President Miguel Diaz-Canel Call on the country’s laboratories to come up with what he called the “sovereign answer to COVID-19.”

Only at the same time an economic crisis occurred, tourists disappeared, and the economy shrank by 11%. The government is trying to pay international bills, while the United States is trying to make it harder for Cuban foreigners to send money home.

In November, pressured authorities opened the border and allowed people to enter. One day ago, there were 27 new cases in Cuba and 159,003 in the United States. Soon after Cuba’s numbers began to rise, as of Sunday, there were 13,213 active cases in the country (over the full year of 2020), and 1,253 people died from the virus.

In May, 33-year-old Marilyn Salazar Martínez (Marilyn Salazar Martínez) heard that they were testing the Soberana-02 vaccine in her neighborhood in the Havana district of Vidado. “They were looking for someone over 60, but I went to the doctor and they agreed to take me there.”

A man receives an injection at a vaccination center in Havana [Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters]

She said she didn’t know whether she would be vaccinated or a placebo. “I hope to have the opportunity to get vaccinated as soon as possible, but I also want to be part of the search for a solution,” she told Al Jazeera.

Soon after she received the second injection, her partner tested positive. “I thought I would be infected too,” she said. After admission, the doctor came over and gave her a PCR test, and the result was negative.

“Three weeks later, after he went home, they confirmed that I was vaccinated,” she said. “It is impossible to know if luck or the vaccine prevented me from contracting COVID, but since we live together, it seems to be the vaccine.”

Lack of syringe

According to the Cuban authorities, 2.2 million Cubans have received the first dose of the vaccine, and fewer than 1 million have received the required three doses. Cuba hopes to fully protect its population this year.

Now, one family after another flocks to clinics or workplaces for vaccinations, and a new problem has emerged: people are increasingly worried about the shortage of syringes. Because these vaccines require three doses, Cuba’s demand is greater than in other countries.

Under the leadership of the Cuban diaspora and the International Solidarity Movement, an international campaign was launched to supply the island. The Global Health Partnership (GHP), a non-profit organization in New York, has launched a campaign to address what they call a shortage of 20 million syringes. “So far, we have purchased 4 million syringes. We hope to purchase another 2 million,” GHP vice president Bob Schwartz told Al Jazeera.

However, no one is worried about Cuba’s ability to put vaccines into people’s arms. “Even at the very beginning, I knew that there would be no problem with launching because Cuba’s primary health care system is very effective,” Perez Rivero said.

Gregory Biniowsky, a Canadian lawyer and long-term resident, received the Abdala vaccine at a school in Plaza Vieja, Havana. “There are six medical staff there. The nurse said there might be flu-like symptoms and a little muscle aches, which is what I got.”

Biniowski believes that in the next six months, Cuba will not only become the country with the most vaccinations in Latin America, but it will not remain silent on vaccination like the United States or Russia and other countries.

“This is for three reasons,” he said. “One is that the kind of conspiracy that exists in other countries does not exist here. Then there is a strong belief in science. The last point is that I don’t think people will have any choice.”

Cuba has eight doctors per 1,000 people, three times that of the United Kingdom or the United States. They know where their patients live.


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