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Cuba seeks options in Italy for homegrown vaccines against Covid-19

Rome, March 8 (Prensa Latina) A delegation from the Finlay Vaccines Institute (IFV), headed by its general director, Dr. Vicente Verez, is visiting Italy in search of options for the Soberana 02 and Soberana Plus Covid-19 vaccines developed by that institution.

The delegation also includes Dr. Dagmar Garcia, director of research at the IFV, and Dr. Luis Herrera, scientific advisor to the president of BioCubaFarma and founder of the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB).

In order to learn about the tour of several Italian cities, Prensa Latina spoke in Rome with Verez, leader of the Soberana vaccine project created in 2020 as a response by Cuban scientists to the challenge of guaranteeing the country’s sovereignty in this sphere of confrontation with the Covid-19 pandemic.

The IFV director, who is a chemical engineer who graduated from the “Lomonosov” Institute in Moscow, a State doctor from the University of Orleans, France, and a member of the Cuban Academy of Sciences, among other awards, was the main author of the synthetic vaccine against Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib).

Referring to the objectives of the visit, Verez highlighted the results achieved by Cuba in child vaccination, worldwide, including Soberana 02, “possibly the best vaccine against Covid-19 for children,” he said.

In this regard, he explained that it is the best in terms of safety, with demonstrated efficacy in terms of its immune response in pediatric ages, better than in adults, unlike other vaccines in which the opposite occurs, and mentioned as an example what happened with the Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in Cuba and Italy.

While in Italy the Omicron wave was of the same magnitude as that of the Delta variant, in Cuba it was one-tenth milder, with very similar adult vaccination levels, which the interviewee associated, fundamentally, with the pediatric vaccination coverage achieved in his country with Soberana 02.

We have tried to make Italian society aware that we have a very important instrument to vaccinate children with an important level of safety and we are trying to reach different actors because obviously there is a barrier for a product made in Cuba, developed in Cuba, to enter Europe, he noted.

The IFV general director pointed out that the purpose is “to find a formula that will allow us to arrive, at a certain moment, so that our vaccines can be used in Italy and the rest of Europe, on the one hand, and in collaboration with Italy they can reach children in Africa and other countries.

During their stay in Italy, the delegation participated in the presentation of the results of the Soberana Plus Turin clinical trial, carried out in collaboration with the Amedeo di Savoia hospital, in the capital city of the Piedmont region.

The objective of the study, promoted and organized by the Agency for Cultural and Economic Exchange with Cuba, was to verify the safety and efficacy of the vaccine in people previously immunized with some of the vaccines authorized in Italy, such as those made by Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson and Johnson, and AstraZeneca.

In Verez’s opinion, this was a simple first trial, with a single dose in adults, but the research priorities with Italy changed when the results with the use of Soberana 02 appeared “on the way” and “the tremendous impact of children’s vaccination (in Cuba) with tremendous security.”

Therefore, he said, we aspire more and we aspire that precisely the Soberana 02 vaccine can be available for Italian children at a certain time and from then on for European children and other countries.

Recalling that when the design of that study began, in September 2021, the circumstances were different, he noted that “many booster vaccines for adults have now appeared and therefore it is a bit of a race against time to try to make Soberana Plus the vaccine of choice for adults.

However, Soberana Plus is the vaccine of choice for convalescent pediatric patients and is also the vaccine of choice as a third dose for children vaccinated with Soberana 02, he said.

Therefore, he added, we are moving where, above all, we really have the best opportunities, where there is a problem that has no solution is in the pediatric population and we are moving with two vaccines.

We are moving with two doses of Soberana 02 and Soberana Plus as vaccination for children over two years of age, said Verez, who stressed that no vaccine has been approved for children from two to five years of age at the moment.

We are moving with two doses from 2 to 18 years of age with Soberana 02 and one of Soberana Plus, which was what we did in Cuba and it has had such good results, and we are also moving the Soberana Plus vaccine as a booster for convalescent children or young people, who at this time do not have a vaccine option either, he stressed.

In both cases, he said, we have very good results; we have evidence published in the best international journals with all these clinical trials. We are in the phase of trying to draw up a regulatory strategy that will allow us to achieve this.

From this perspective, the professor favored the search on mixed alternatives that will allow, “with vaccines produced in Cuba or finished in Italy”, starting “moving in clinical trials and we can start using that vaccine even for other countries outside the European Union.

As an element to generate confidence through that combination of producing a part in Cuba and finishing here and moving in that direction that will allow us, at a certain time, not so far away, to have an option to use that vaccine with Italy, he emphasized.


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