Cuba has begun late-stage trials of its most advanced experimental Covid-19 vaccine, edging closer to a potential home-grown inoculation campaign.

The country started this week recruiting around 44,000 volunteers in Havana aged between 19 and 80 for its randomised, placebo-controlled trial of the two-shot vaccine in which some will receive a third booster shot with another Cuban vaccine candidate, Reuters reports.

If the vaccine proves effective, Cuba has said it would inoculate its entire population of 11 million with what would be the first Covid-19 jab developed and produced in Latin America. Cuba said it would also export the vaccine and offer it to tourists.

While Latin American and Caribbean countries are largely competing with richer nations to access limited vaccine supply produced abroad, Cuba has chosen to bet on its own shots even as it faces its worst outbreak since the start of the pandemic.

The country’s most advanced experimental vaccine is Soberana, which means sovereignty, 2, reflecting national pride in Cuba’s relative self-reliance in areas like healthcare in spite of the crippling decades-old US trade embargo.

Neighbouring countries like Mexico, Venezuela and Jamaica have already expressed an interest in acquiring Soberana 2 should it succeed. The large phase 3 trial should be complete in November, with final results available in January 2022, according to Cuba’s official registry of clinical trials.

Source: Pauline via Guardian Live online –  Thursday, March 4,2021.