Cuba Advances Its Vaccination Campaign Amid Record of COVID-19 Infections

By Alejandra Garcia, on June 29, 2021 from Havana

photo: Bill Hackwell

The pandemic is growing unabated in Cuba amid authorities’ efforts to immunize the population. This Tuesday, the Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP) informed that over 1 million citizens have already received three doses of home-grown vaccines. However, this encouraging news came with another one that has raised all the alarms: in the last 24 hours, Cuba surpassed the 3,000 cases of COVID-19 for the first time in one year.

With 10 percent of its people immunized, the island is one of the top countries leading the search for herd immunity in Latin America. But now what is happening is something many experts had foreseen: Cuba is going through a third wave of contagions promoted by the circulation of more contagious and deadly strains and citizens’ low perception of risk.

According to the Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP) Epidemiology National Director Francisco Duran, 1,006,300 people have received three doses of COVID-19 vaccines. “These figures do not mean that we are out of danger, nor that no new transmissions will occur. To decrease cases, we must achieve a higher percentage of the vaccinated population,” the official warned.

Havana, which had been the disease epicenter until now, is already experiencing a slight decrease in cases one month after health authorities started the immunization campaign in this city. However, today the streets of the capital are full of people seeking mainly to buy food and medicines.

The third wave of contagions has coincided with a shocking shortage of basic goods. The blockade imposed by the U.S. on Cuba for almost six decades -which intensified since the beginning of the pandemic-, has caused raw materials shortages and loss of regular suppliers and has prevented the island from carrying out banking transactions to make payments.

Last year, US policy blocked the arrival in Cuba of a batch of masks and diagnostic kits donated by China. Swiss banks refused to transfer donations made to Cuba by the Swiss solidarity organizations MediCuba-Switzerland and Swiss-Cuba Association. The island also could not purchase pulmonary ventilators from the US company Vyaire Medical Inc.

In January, The Mexican Shipping Agency S.A. notified that there weren’t ships available to dock in Cuba due to the blockade. The situation affected the delivery of indispensable medicines for the Cuban population, such as Dypirone, which relieves pain and fever, and Glibenclamide, used in diabetic patients.

“Washington assumed COVID-19 as an ally in its ruthless unconventional war. The White House opportunistically tightened the economic, commercial, and financial blockade and caused losses of $198 million 348 thousand dollars in our health sector from April to December 2020,” Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez warned during the United Nations General Assembly held last week.

The government efforts to maintain low infection and death rates this past year has been immeasurable. “And we will spare no sacrifice to continue protecting and saving people’s lives,” Rodriguez said.

Despite the undeniable and overwhelming impact of the blockade, the island has continued to offer a quality, universal, and cost-free healthcare service. It has also guaranteed compliance with protocols for COVID-19 infected and suspects of carrying the disease, has performed all PCR tests for free, has set up molecular biology laboratories in all the provinces, and has developed its prototypes of pulmonary ventilators.

“Our country does not forget its history, and there is no blockade capable of overshadowing our achievements. These are facts, not just words,” Rodriguez concluded before the UN.

Source: Resumen Latinoamericano – English